CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Regaining trust through dialogue and communication

OVER THE PAST three months, Hong Kong has gone through a cycle of stress and frustration due, among other things, to the government’s now-suspended extradition bill. Protests involving thousands to millions have seen a cross section of society from all walks of life raising a hue and cry. There have been clashes between police and protestors, young people committing suicide out of despair in condemnation of the government, while critics attack politicians with differing views. In the midst of the seeming gridlock and boiling point contentiousness, many hope to find a way out of this predicament and restore some peace to mind and heart.
 
It is sad to see the social discord becoming worse. The desire for a better way to accommodate differing opinions and progress towards a more democratic society necessitates a willingness on the part of all concerned to listen and dialogue. However, labelling, partisan politics, as well as clinging to extreme opinions all hinder communication. People only see what they want to see, but not necessarily what they need to see. They may even shut themselves off because they cannot see the future.
 
The threat of the extradition bill has seemingly broken a trust; the social contract between the people of Hong Kong and a seemingly out-of-touch government. Finding a way to rebuild that trust and learn to communicate is the most urgent task if this broken society is to move forward.
 
Even in Catholic Church, there are different opinions on the extradition bill; those with different points of view may all want to speak out. However, Christians know that the “body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12); this is the sign of communion. We can complement each other and this kind of relationship is necessary for the common good and social harmony. 
 
When Church groups encounter different viewpoints, they need to walk together to find a mutual source of information in Catholic social teaching through which they might find common ground. Among these, the DOCAT, is an outstanding source for learning about social justice. It states: “It is her (the Church) right and duty to speak out whenever injustice endangers social life” (33). This may be why young Catholics have the courage to express themselves on the matter of the extradition bill.
 
The DOCAT encourages Christians to participate in society through effective communication and cooperation. “The participation of citizens is a cornerstone of democracy and therefore ... is the core of participatory justice” it says (98, 99). This cannot happen in isolation, all must join in. 
 
All stakeholders, including the young people pushing for social justice, must communicate and cooperate with different groups in order to pave the way for an environment of citizen participation. Hong Kong’s young people can try to understand the viewpoint some older members of society towards the protestors while the reverse also holds true. To quote the late Martin Luther King Jr.: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” 
 
Citizen participation is everyone’s obligation and Christians do not get off the hook. This is definitely a test of how effectively they can dialogue, as we cannot ignore the crisis and the wounds that have resulted.
 
The heart of the Christian needs remember to focus on what is beyond and remember that God has his plan—we offer our limitations and trust that he will take care to make up the difference and do the rest.
 
We must try to engage in dialogue with others in trust and patience as God does with us. If you can trust and share, you begin to bring peace and wholeness to society again. SE