POPE FRANCIS HAS offered his Message for the World Day of Peace for New Year’s Day under the theme Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace, in which he reminds the world that rejecting violence in the midst of turmoil and turbulence is the imperative of the truth of humanity.
Two years ago in Hong Kong, we experienced the 79-day Umbrella Movement, which, as it did not affect any immediate outcome, prompted some to query the efficacy of peaceful, rational, non-violent confrontation in favour of combatant protest.
However, while many say government policies in defiance of public opinion are responsible for the deteriorating social environment and turbulent political climate of the city today, the pope is inviting us to look more deeply at peaceful confrontation in resisting violence, aggression and hegemony.
At the beginning of last year, there was violent confrontation in Hong Kong that left people deeply concerned and led to widespread complaint about the manner in which the government was condemning violence on the one hand, while allowing institutional violence on the other.
Earlier last year, the Legislative Council (LegCo), which is heavily pro-establishment weighted, allocated extra funding to the controversial express rail link in a chaotic show of hands and then railroaded the bill through by getting the acting chairperson to use his own rough impression as a lone criterion.
Recently, the National People’s Congress in Beijing moved to interpret the Basic Law while the court in Hong Kong was still considering a suit filed by the chief executive of the city over the proprietary of the oaths taken by two elected pro-independence members of the LegCo.
This move has diminished the executive of the special administrative region, as well as damaging the separation of executive and judicial powers. In addition, a White Paper that floated down from Beijing is mostly regarded as harming both the One Country, Two Systems principle and the high degree of autonomy of the region guaranteed in the Basic Law.
This institutional violence grows out of self-interest and fear, but also receives sanction from the timidity of the majority. This leads to greater inequality and should prompt everyone to question the validity of keeping but a passive watch.
A society that does not act accepts administrative violence. Breaking the cycle demands transformative love, a love which crosses the dichotomy between various forms of violence that dissolve problems in a desire for renewal (cf. Pope John XXIII in Peace on Earth written during the Cold War).
The renewal must begin with truth, the foundation on which peace is built. Justice can build peace inside the yeast of charity. With a reliance on freedom, justice can grow to the extent that it can challenge institutional violence and bring peace. But the ability of discernment must be born in the people’s desire for renewal.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ renews the world. He was filled with righteous indignation towards those who spoke blasphemous words against the Temple. His death on the cross is redemptive and enables reconciliation between God and his people.
Jesus deliberately chose justice, love and sacrifice rather than violence to challenge and change. He believed that only truth, justice, charity and freedom can bring true peace to society. We are called to model ourselves on Jesus by embracing the desire for renewal and the pursuit of peace. SE