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Journeying with young people amid social controversy

With the massive July 1 rally, 550,000 Hong Kong people from all walks of life continued to call for the withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill and removal of the “riot” label tacked on to the protests of June 12. The will of the people was clearly seen. 
 
Following the Umbrella Movement in 2014, public opinion was divided, however the over one million who turned out on June 9 and the two million who filled the streets on June 16 to protest the bill, indicated that the city’s pro-democracy aspirations had been reignited.
 
During the Umbrella Movement, Christians might have held opposing opinions, but with the extradition bill, the mainstream opinion is comparatively clear—even those identified as moderate publicly opposed it.  People united because they perceived a threat to their personal safety and freedoms. Given the increased political awareness of young people following the Umbrella Movement, Christian groups and the civil society can act reasonably and with maturity to face challenges, and patiently and effectively communicate with people from all walks of life. 
 
There are different types of social demonstrations and young people take up an important role in most of them. Some block roads while others try to explain how can the extradition bill can cause long term harm to Hong Kong. 
 
Breakthrough Limited, a Protestant organisation that works through media, cultural and educational services, released findings on June 19 showing that almost 80 per cent of young people took to the streets to call for justice after thorough consideration; they were not incited by others. 
 
Christian groups helped drive the protests with the hymn, Sing Alleluia to the Lord.  Many Catholic parishes and organisations interceded for Hong Kong by celebrating Masses and holding prayer services. Some clergy even remained with the young people, praying and singing with them instead of delivering lengthy sermons. People feel love and care with this kind of listening and accompaniment.
 
Some may criticise that the Church is not involved enough while others might say it goes too far. The fact is, Christians have contributed in numerous ways during the protests, some went to the front lines to defend against tear gas, some accompanied the restless and uneasy with prayer. Some hope that the Church will have the final word to end the controversy, some may still long for different forms of demonstrations so other views and opinions on social concerns can be heard and respected. 
 
The engagement of young people shows that they have been well-shaped by liberal studies as well as media education and they know how to gather information in a more effective way than prior generations.  So, when facing the social controversy and darkness, how can their elders prepare themselves to work with them?
 
In the Year of Youth, the Church has held some formation activities based on the youth-oriented, DOCAT: Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, which covers topics on social participation and political meaning in its broad sense.  It is a valuable resource for young people. As Pope Francis writes, “Go into politics, too, and fight for justice and human dignity, especially for the poorest of the poor.”  
 
Christians can engage in politics in many ways, but at the end of the day it is all about love. 
 
Let us continue to pray for our young people and society and may the good works of the Church show our concern and empathy as a shining light. SE