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Parishes places of refuge amid Hong Kong’s protest storm

HONG KONG (SE): A number of Hong Kong’s parishes have been opening their doors during the series of protests against the government’s now-suspended extradition bill, giving people a place to pray and rest. Parish priests pointed out that it is incumbent on parishes to offer help when there is an emergency and that it is not a political gesture.
 
After the shocking and indiscriminate violence in Yuen Long on July 21, tens of thousands of people flocked there on July 27 to protest and condemn the attack. Ss. Peter and Paul Church was opened as a rest station that day (Sunday Examiner, August 4).
 
Father Gervais Baudry, parish priest, told the Kung Kao Po on July 28 that the church had to be opened as a place of refuge, but the assistance offered did not represent anything.
 
Father Baudry said he worried that there would be serious conflicts leading to injuries so the parish was prepared to offer medical support if necessary. A room to rest was made available with food and water where people could watch the live news broadcast. 
 
While outside the parish in the afternoon, he held a rosary and prayed as he saw protesters pass by and then dispersed by the police,. 
 
The Holy Redeemer Church, Tuen Mun opened as a rest centre on July 21 and then on July 27 for the whole night due to its proximity to Yuen Long. Parish priest, Father Joseph Lui Ah-lun, told Kung Kao Po on July 25 that parishes had to extend a helping hand in any emergency. He saw people going to the chapel to pray on the night of July 21. Some parishioners later approached him and offered to be volunteers in the rest centre on July 27. 
 
Victoria Cheuk, chairperson of the parish council of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Wanchai, said the parish provided both a first aid station and a prayer centre for people. 
 
Cheuk said that after the clashes with police in Admiralty on June 12, the parish set up an emergency and support team, which makes arrangements when the parish is opened as a rest centre—which is then announced on social media. 
 
She said the team, consisting of 12 volunteers, is responsible for offering medical help as well as buying food and other necessary items. They also need to be on duty to offer help especially when the parish is open overnight, and to tell refuge-seekers that no weapons are allowed, nor may they post banners.
 
She said that while some who have cares may volunteer to bring refuge-seekers home, volunteers will remind them of the risks of leaving the parish. She believes it is safer to stay when there is chaos outside.
 
On the night of August 5, many parishes opened their doors in response to the protests in different districts. Ss. Cosmas and Damian Church, Tsuen Wan; Holy Redeemer Church, Tuen Mun; St. Francis of Assisi Church, Sham Shui Po; St. Vincent’s Chapel, Wong Tai Sin; St. Bonaventure Church, Tsz Wan Shan; Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Wan Chai, as well as the office of Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students on Prince Edward Road were opened as the rest centres for people in need.

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