"It's not just internal peace. It's internal healing. Healing of your memory." After suffering a brutal knife attack that nearly killed him, journalist Kevin Lau, then editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, chose to forgive his two attackers. Since then, he has continued to support social participation through deep Christian spirituality. In this episode, he is joined by theologian Andrew Kwok of Hong Kong Baptist University. Together in this episode, they reflect on the spirituality of social participation in a society that is experiencing censorship, political disagreement and disenfranchisement that leads to violence, increasing polarization, and tribalized media consumption curated only to confirm the views you already hold. Interview by Evan Rosa.
"It's not just internal peace. It's internal healing. Healing of your memory." (Kevin Lau)
After suffering a brutal knife attack that nearly killed him, journalist Kevin Lau, then editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, chose to forgive his two attackers. Since then, he has continued to support social participation through deep Christian spirituality. In this episode, he is joined by theologian Andrew Kwok of Hong Kong Baptist University. Together they reflect on the spirituality of social participation in a society that is experiencing censorship, political disagreement and disenfranchisement that leads to violence, increasing polarization, and tribalized media consumption curated only to confirm the views you already hold.
Interview by Evan Rosa.
About Kevin Lau
Kevin Lau Chun-to is the former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, a moderate Chinese-language news outlet based in Hong Kong and known for its commitment to journalistic freedom and reporting integrity. In 2014 he was viciously attacked in a premeditated slashing for his work. The attack was an international news event that sparked protests and demonstration for freedom of the press. Since then, he has spoken widely about his forgiveness for his attackers and remains an advocate for freedom of the press and Christian spirituality of social participation in Hong Kong and beyond.
About Andrew Kwok
Wai Luen (Andrew) Kwok is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion & Philosophy in Hong Kong Baptist University. His research includes Chinese Christianity, public theology, and Christian doctrine and hermeneutics. He has written and taught about religious discourse, social participation, and identity construction of Hong Kong Protestant Christians from 1970 to 1997; as well as the concept of social justice in the periodicals of foreign religions in China 1911 to 1949. He is currently working on a reconciliation project between Christians occupying different ends of the political spectrum in Hong Kong.
Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. Visit us online at faith.yale.edu.
Kevin Lau: How to face the moment when you suddenly lost control of your body, when your journalistic career suddenly came to a halt, when your mission, your service, your determination to look after the city you love by writing and observing suddenly all come to a stop, there was no hope. Because all the doctors told me you might spend the rest of your life on a wheelchair. It was almost a miracle that I can resume walking. What's more important is the shadow—how you face the shadow. I only realize that Jesus Christ was walking with me.
Andrew Kwok: We do not just dialogue for dialogue sake. Before coming to the dialogue, Christian needs to listen to the very bottom of their heart, to review their own pain and also their darkness. If they can recognize that the grief, the anger, and also the frustration, and then we can ready ourselves to have dialogue, to listen to each other, especially to those who has opposite will with us, to hear about their frustration and to hear about their anger.
Evan Rosa: This is For the Life of the World, a podcast about seeking and living a life worthy of our humanity. I'm Evan Rosa, with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. On February 26th, 2014, the former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong news outlet, Ming Pao, was targeted and attacked by two men, stabbing him in the back and legs, not to kill, but to maim. They were trying to send a message.
Just a month prior, Kevin Lau had been ousted from his leadership of Ming Pao, known internationally for its credibility as a news source, its commitment to liberalism and freedom of press and its investigative journalism. His removal and subsequent slashing was seen as a direct assault on journalistic freedom. And in the days following his nearly fatal attack while he fought for his life, thousands of journalists and pro-democracy supporters demonstrated in the streets of Hong Kong as the event became international news.
Kevin's story continues. He survived the attack, but the process of healing was long. He almost lost all the blood in his body, and as the nerves were severed in his legs, he had to relearn how to walk. But even as his assailants were tried and convicted a year later and sentenced to 19 years in prison, he remained committed to forgiveness. Even as he faced his attackers during the trial, it was the inner strength to forgive that proceeded and paved the way for external, physical, and social healing. He explains this as constantly being on two journeys: the outside journey of rehab, therapy, physical and social healing, and the inside journey, which he understands as the life of Christian spirituality and meditation and prayer. In his own words:
Kevin Lau: It begins with your internal world of your heart through meditation and prayer, through observing, through seeking, thinking and praying. Only the strength, the peace, and the hope that you find in the inside journey that enable you to face the outside journey challenges.
Evan Rosa: On this episode, Kevin Lau joins me for a conversation with his friend and fellow collaborator for social participation in Hong Kong, Andrew Kwok, a theologian at Hong Kong Baptist University. Together in this episode, they reflect on the spirituality of social participation in a society that is experiencing censorship, political disagreement, and disenfranchisement that leads to violence, increasing polarization, tribalized media consumption curated only to confirm the views you already hold. This of course is a sketch of Hong Kong, but it's a sobering thing to realize how well this describes much of the world we know today. Kevin and Andrew offer us an opportunity to appreciate the particular struggles of Hong Kong and learn how to respond to our own unique challenges by listening to their experience. Thanks for joining us today.
Andrew, Kevin, I'm so delighted that you've joined us on For the Life of the World. Thank you so much for your time today.
Andrew Kwok: Thank you.
Evan Rosa: How would you describe the story of what's been going on in Hong Kong over the past three to five years up to today? Clearly there's a long history that goes into it, but especially from the perspective of social participation for Hong Kong people and the public discourse that has surrounded it.
Kevin Lau: I would use two words to describe what we are experiencing in Hong Kong at this special moment. The first word is collapse. We are seeing a lot of things that we treasure, long-established values, traditions, good practices, collapsing right in front of our eyes. It was like Jews in the First Century seeing Jerusalem and their Holy Temple collapsing before them. That's how we felt in Hong Kong, when rule of law, civil liberties, freedom of speech were being eroded every week.
The other word I'm going to use is rebuild. Although we cannot rebuild the entire system, although we cannot restore things that were lost, but I've seen people supporting each other, attending court trials just to show their support, writing letters to young demonstrators in prison, doing small things to show care, to support each other. It was like seeing the Jews in exile in Babylon, forming synagogues and small communities. That's what we are seeing.
Evan Rosa: Andrew, do you have anything to add to that?
Andrew Kwok: I would like to say that in the past few years, we are going through a process of awakening. Hong Kong is a financial city, economic hub. And so most of the people, they just concentrate to earn money and to establish their own wealth. I think though in the last very few years, we experienced a very painful process of political conflicts and the vanishing of political hope. But actually, we are going into a process of awakening. More and more Hong Kong people, they are being awakened to realize that Hong Kong is not just a city for earning money, but a city that they love, a city that they have a lot of good values they cherish.
And the second thing is that we are now in a process of searching for a real hope. Civil disobedience can only be successful in a constitutional government and Hong Kong people, they consider their government somehow constitutional. And so they want to search for a kind of political hope through political movement. But I think after several years, now everyone realized that actually that hope is a kind of dream, if not a lie. And so that now I think not only Hong Kong people, but also Christians, we need to face brutally that what is our real hope for our city and for our life. And just as Kevin had mentioned, I agree with him that now it seems that everything is collapsing and so that we are searching for real hope. And I think that Christians, we have a part to play, to bring hope to the society as well.
Evan Rosa: Now, Kevin, I wanted to ask you. Your personal story is wrapped into the story of Hong Kong as a city. You were attacked in 2014 while you were the editor-in-chief of Ming Pao. I wonder if you would mind telling us the story of that attack and how you have been healing in the wake of that and how you now understand it as part of the broader story of Hong Kong.
Kevin Lau: I was attacked on the 26th of February, 2014. That was a Wednesday at 10:15 in the morning. And I was on my way to my office and I stopped at the place where I used to go for breakfast. And when I step out from my car, I was attacked at the back. I didn't see the guy who hold a chopper, but when I realized what was happening, the two men were quickly leaving the scene on a motorbike. And I found out I was injured when blood drops onto my hand. And I was carried by ambulance to the hospital and five hours to six hours of surgery. Subsequently the doctor told me that I lost 4,000 CC of blood, almost the entire blood I have. So they have to inject a lot of the blood into my body during the surgery.
And the sciatic nerves on both legs were severed. Although they have immediately reconnected, but the nerve disconnected from the blame was ruined. So that means for both of my legs, I cannot move, I cannot feel for a long time. So I stay in hospital for five months, and then underwent four years of therapy. That was a long process. But the most difficult moment was about 16 months after the attack when I for the first time face the two attacker at the courtroom. They were charged and they were brought to the courtroom, and I was the witness. So I have to stand there, two days, facing them at a very close distance. At that time they were convicted by the unanimous decision of the jury. Subsequently the judge gave them 19 years of imprisonment. The maximum sentence is 20. They got 19.
After the trial reporters came to ask me, "what did I feel?" And I told them, "I forgive them." That was possible only because Jesus Christ asked me to. I couldn't do that. I had a long struggle before I attend the court trial. If I said I would consider forgiving them if they show some signs of repentance, that would be a more acceptable answer to most of the people, but that's not what Jesus Christ demands. Unconditional forgiveness. And I could only do that by fixing my eyes on the cross. That's where the healing of my wounded memory starts. Without that healing of my wounded memory, I could not face the trial; I could not face the two men; I could not face the past.
Evan Rosa: Why do you think that you were attacked?
Kevin Lau: At the appeal, the court found based on investigation evidence that the attack was related to my work in the newsroom, although it was not clear, which part of my work because we have been conducting a lot of investigative journalism, which is highly offending to those people with power and money. But the court was convinced that it was related to my work.
Evan Rosa: I wonder if you could say a little bit more about the healing of wounded memory. That phrase of yours really struck me. What was the struggle like for you?
Kevin Lau: It was like how to face the moment when you suddenly lost control of your body, when your journalistic career suddenly came to a halt, when your mission, your service, your determination to look after the city you love by writing and observing suddenly all come to a stop. There was no hope because all the doctors told me you might spend the rest of your life on a wheelchair. It was almost a miracle that I can resume walking without the assistance of tools. But what's more important is the shadow—how you face the shadow. I only realize that Jesus Christ was walking with me when I went back to the scene. I went back there. I wanted to see if the shadow was strong enough to stop me from going forward. But Jesus Christ was there. Even at the moment when I was lying on the pavement, waiting for the ambulance to come, he was there.
This is the starting point. This is starting point where your memory of the most horrible thing in your life start to look not so horrible because Jesus is there. I was asked by some young people at church or at other public meetings. They asked, "Mr. Lau, why could you forgive the two men who attacked you, who wounded you, who caused so much loss to you?" And I said: "Yes, forgiveness is important, but I cannot equate my own situation with many people in Hong Kong in their situation because in my case, I was lucky enough to have a fair trial in which the truth was revealed. Justice was done so that I can have no burden. The only question I need to consider is whether I forgive or not. Reconciliation, healing is far easier in such a situation. But whereas in the macro environment here where there's no independent investigation, no truth being established, no justice being seen to be done, how can reconciliation be even started? There's no reconciliation. There's only anger. There's only grief. There's only despair."
Evan Rosa: To fully appreciate the power and extent of the assault on Kevin Lau, not just the brutality of the offense in its literal and symbolic attack on journalism, freedom of the press, peaceful protest and the very flourishing of a metropolis like Hong Kong, you need to understand some of the city's political history and context. For over 2000 years, starting with the ancient Qin Dynasty, Hong Kong was an established economic hub on the South China Sea. By the 19th Century British Opium Wars, the Ching Dynasty ceded the region to the United Kingdom. Then in 1997, it was returned to China as the "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China." As such, it has enjoyed, in theory, more freedom and less censorship than Mainland China.
But for the past 24 years, this has been a fraught relationship. Things came to a head in 2014, not only with Kevin's assault, but with the launch of the Umbrella Movement, a 79-day occupation named for the peaceful use of umbrellas against police force. Advocating for transparency in elections and universal suffrage, this movement began not just on the streets, but in churches led by Benny Tai, a Christian legal scholar, formerly at the University of Hong Kong and a pro-democracy activist.
That fight for free elections continues. The Umbrella Movement was ultimately unsuccessful. And by summer of 2019, the conflict between pro-democracy protesters and pro-establishment reached new heights of both participation and violence. This time 2 million people took to the streets over the judicial independence of Hong Kong. And after a summer of heated protest, the pro-democracy movement secured a landslide victory in Hong Kong's November 2019 District Council Election, which carried with it a huge symbolic meaning for pro democratic action.
But by the following summer, June 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, China instituted a National Security Law in Hong Kong, essentially criminalizing acts of protest in any kind of political dissent. Since then, Hong Kong censorship has increased. Chinese nationalism has become the litmus test for civil servants and politicians. Elections have been reformed, likely not toward fairness and transparency. And activists have been arrested and persecuted even more. There are reports of police brutality, even torture and sexual assault. It's in this context that both Kevin and Andrew now continue their work for peaceful dialogue and Christian public engagement in Hong Kong.
Andrew, you have taken an approach of activism and you've made it a personal project to establish a kind of dialogue between people who differ, in some cases differ very extremely, but also people who have been at odds and in conflict. I wonder if you would comment on that same aspect from your own perspective of working for reconciliation in Hong Kong.
Andrew Kwok: I agree very much with Kevin. No truth and justice is very difficult to have a real and a kind of comprehensive reconciliation among the members of the society. One of my concern is that why and how the society will increase their enmity and somehow the tension between each other. And I think that if this kind of tensions grows up consistently, one day, we'll find that our conflicts and the violence will become much more serious. And so actually my project, when members of the church or the young people asked me whether you want to reconcile with each other, I said I recognize the difficulty, but I also recognize that actually all the political conflicts or even the evils of the society usually grow up from our human nature, and grow up from our anger and our grief and our sense of injustice.
And so that actually, the dialogue has several functions for me. The first thing I emphasize that we do not just dialogue for dialogue sake. Actually before come to the dialogue, Christian needs to listen to the very bottom of their heart to review their own pain and also their darkness. If they can recognize their grief, their anger, and also their frustration, then for Christians, at least, we can share with someone and also pray with each other. And then we can ready ourselves to have dialogue, to listen to each other, especially to those who has opposite will with us, to hear about their frustration and to hear about their anger and we can pray together. So actually, I would like to say that my project is more humble than to do reconciliation. My project is something that I want to save the better part of our human nature before the whole society fall into a kind of evil situation that we will fight with each other, and then we think that we are doing harm to others with very legitimate reasons.
And you can see that actually in the modern Chinese society. I think politics is one problem of a lot of very dark time that we experience. But also people, when they do not recognize the dark side of their personality or the dark side of the human nature, then our society will be good sit back for this kind of violence and conflicts. And so actually as a theologian, I'm more humble that I would want to bring awareness to my fellow Christians to recognize this danger and through prayers and through listening and through our silence, then we can touch this dark side and ask the help of our God and to bring it to be our awareness and then to avoid our dark side to harm others.
Evan Rosa: What I find interesting about this and each of your vocations—you're both concerned with seeking truth and communicating that: Kevin, for you on the journalistic side, and Andrew, for you on the scholarship side. And I would like to hear what you have to say about how not just Hong Kong people, but of course, anyone who has been brutally harmed, offended, anyone who has been the victim of injustice or oppression. I wonder if each of you might talk a little bit more about how communication, listening, seeking the truth together, praying together. How does communicating about that allow for those people to forgive when justice can't be secured?
Andrew Kwok: For me as a theologian, I think that the first thing that the church should do is to be in solidarity with suffering, with the suffered. I think when we are in solidarity with the suffered, then you will find that actually you can hear a lot stories—those stories, painful with frustrations and very bad experience. But at least we can see who suffered and then we let those stories being heard. I think one of the necessary conditions for having truth is that we have all the information that we need to make the judgment and we'll find that actually those who suffered, usually their voice cannot be heard.
And then the second thing, I think for the church now—actually for Hong Kong church, many of the church, we are from the Calvinist tradition. And I think from neo-Calvinism, one of the very good theological resources is from Abraham Kuyper, theology of the sphere sovereignty. I think that is also important to preserve the truth, according to sphere sovereignty. A lot of people think that truth is always related to power. But when they speak about power, they would just refer to political power. But I think that the neo-Calvinist sphere sovereignty concept tell us that actually the truth is not just in political power, but in all the professionalism. If all the professionals, they try to do their best according to their profession, then you'll find that the truth is there. And actually, for example, in Hong Kong, teachers, social workers, medical doctors, accountants, lawyers, now you will find that if we try to keep our professionalism, somehow, we will face pressure and it's just not easy. This is exactly the case that we'll find that we need to keep the truth within these professions. And for Hong Kong Christians, I think now that is very important that we speak about the truth, not just to focus on politics, but also in all life aspects of the society, we need to preserve the truth.
Kevin Lau: I find it very difficult. There was a book by Walter Brueggemann. It came out a few years ago. It attracted me because the cover of the book was designed in a very interesting way. It was a traffic light: red, yellow, and green. And the name of the book is Reality, Grief, Hope. Brueggemann's theme was that you need to recognize the reality, the red light. Embrace it as the reality. And then let your grief over all the losses be expressed, be communicated. That's the yellow light. Then you can reach the point of finding hope from the word of God. That's the green light. Using that metaphor, right now we have difficulty in recognizing the reality. People run away from it. People want it deny it. People just can't face it. And institutional churches, Chinese Christians are very weak at grief, lamentations. We don't know how to. We don't know how to mourn. We don't know how to express our grief and comfort each other. We don't know how to communicate it.
Evan Rosa: And is that because of the problem of the inability to recognize reality and the question of truth is still open and concealed?
Kevin Lau: Partly because the wall of the city keeps collapsing and collapsing and the dust has not settled yet. Every week, something new comes up. And you see another stone, another cornerstone, another wall being taken away, being torn down. So the reality although very clear to me, but it's not yet clear to some people, or maybe too clear to some people, so that they leave.
Evan Rosa: How specifically do you see the task of journalism and truth-seeking through journalism being a force for good in Hong Kong?
Kevin Lau: It's still there, struggling, trying to survive. Conscientious journalists who cannot stay in mainstream organizations because of ownership change, because of management change, because of all kinds of pressure, they have to work in very small online news organization, with a very humble salary, with very tough working conditions. And they are just struggling.
Evan Rosa: How do you approach journalism personally at this point? Do you experience that same struggle in the wake of being attacked for your own efforts at trying to shine a light on the dark places of Hong Kong? How do you regard your profession and vocation now?
Kevin Lau: I'm lucky because I was kind of like being put into a shelter by God because of the injury, because of the attack. So I left the frontline. Now, I'm only writing one weekly commentary column for the newspaper. So being a columnist writing once a week, the pressure has much been reduced. So I keep writing, voicing, keeping an eye on what's happening, but I do not need to face what's happening moment by moment, day by day. That was a big change. It was kind of like you're still in the battlefield, but instead of staying at the frontline, you move to the back.
Evan Rosa: I wonder if each of you would be willing to talk a little bit about the role of freedom and personal responsibility in the search for truth. How do you see the role of personal freedom and responsibility in society?
Andrew Kwok: Maybe I'd go back to what Kevin has talked about, the culture of the Chinese church, that we do not know how to grieve, and we do not know how to mourn. And actually I think that is also related to the search of the truth. Actually, that we do not know how to mourn is a kind of Chinese culture. I would like to say that for the majority of Chinese, we are very resilient. We always receive the tough time and then just do our own things. So that is typical Chinese culture.
And so actually now I think for Hong Kong church and as well as maybe the church in the Mainland, actually we are under a very big task: how can we recognize the value of the Biblical teaching, for example, to stand with the suffering and to recognize the reality and to grieve and to mourn and to ask for help from God, rather than we just follow our cultural practice and to do the things as business as usual? Without this kind of enlightenment from the Bible or from our faith, I think we are quite difficult to seek the truth. Actually, because we will somehow adjust to live with the situation, to live with the political pressure and then to adapt ourselves to the new reality. And then we will not use the real hope to reflect our reality.
I think the relationship between truth and justice and mercy and kindness, actually, is quite a dynamic relationship. So whenever we cultivate that relationship, we should recognize our dark side. And actually that relationship is the kind of truth-seeking of ourselves. Not just to make good relationships with others. And then in that relationship, then we will find that we can have a space that we allow different opinions and the truth come in. The truth-seeking process is a kind of spirituality. And if there is a relationship, it's not just a good inter-personal relationship, but we allow the work of the Holy Spirit to come in and to awake us and to enlighten us, especially our dark parts. And then we can have a space to seek truth with those opposite with my opinions or opposites in the political positions with me.
Kevin Lau: Two reasons why recognizing and facing reality has become difficult for us in Hong Kong. The first reason I have made is that the scene still keeps changing; the dust is not settled. The second reason I've given was that the reality was too cruel, too unbearable that people started running away from it. Why recognizing reality has become so difficult is polarization. We live in a polarized world. Just like the US during the election time, people are divided into two camps. Media are divided into two camps. And for people who live in one camp, they are surrounded by propaganda, by all kinds of ideologies, news, and report and analysis, and social gossips, whatever. You live in your own world in which you see only one side.
For example, in this situation in Hong Kong, for people who tend to support the government, maybe they grew up in a civil servant family, they would not listen to the other side. They would never understand why the young demonstrators went to the street and use all sorts of means to express their anger. Likewise, if you live in the demonstrators, or their supporters', sympathizers' camp, you would never understand how a policeman feels. So, in the past, when we are living under the so-called mass media time, we listen to the same radio; we watch the same TV program; we watch mainstream newspapers who share the same headlines, that's no more the case. We are no longer in the mass media environment. We live in a polarized world. Truth is only one party's truth.
Evan Rosa: How do we get back to that shared truth, a shared understanding of reality that would allow us to depolarize?
Andrew Kwok: For me, I'm doing the peace building program in the university. And I think that actually I helped the student to build several virtues. The first thing is somehow to have the inner peace of themselves, to recognize their own anger, their own grief, their own hurt inside themselves. They need to be healed, be listened, before they can listen to others.
The second thing is that they need to learn tolerance. Actually, I think that is a kind of virtue that we need to learn and cultivate. It is not given. I think in the US, for example, Packer Palmer, the Circle of Trust, or those listening exercises, actually, they are very helpful for the university students to learn how to listen to others, not just the surface about the political positions, but learn to listen some deep-down yearning, or desire, or their emotion in a very non-judgmental way. I want to help the young people to nurture the capacity to tolerate others.
Evan Rosa: Over the past year, one of the many themes that has emerged from the social, cultural and political collisions around justice, the meaning of truth and falsehood, and polarization is that spirituality and public life really are intimately related. And in both Kevin and Andrew's approach to social participation in Hong Kong, the interior life of prayer, meditation, and an encounter with God is what fuels the exterior life of action. The inside journey supports the outside journey.
Kevin Lau: I had raised the difficulty of seeking truth in a polarized community, so let me now try to tackle it. For Christians, we have a way to tackle it and that way is called spirituality. Interestingly, friends working in Christian bookstores told me that in the past year, only books about spirituality can sell like a hotcake. All other books remain on the shelf—a genuine need to know more and to practice spirituality, and spiritual exercise inspired by, say, St. Ignatius, or the Jesuit meditation way, and other kinds of spiritual exercise, spiritual directions, spiritual counseling. It's happening everywhere in Hong Kong, mainstream churches, because Christians felt the need to go inward, to go inside your heart to find God, in order to have strength to face the outside world.
I had this experience when I was staying in the hospital during those five months. Every day I experienced two journeys. One is the outside journey in which I live like a patient, getting all kind of treatment, doing all kind of rehab. But there is another journey, inside journey, through meditation and prayer, through observing, through seeking, thinking, and praying. I was experiencing an inside journey. And it was only the strength, the peace, and the hope that you find in the inside journey that enable you to face the outside journey challenges. And I think many Christians in Hong Kong are now going through the same process. And church, pastors, we can help them. We can help them.
Evan Rosa: So you're saying that social action really begins with a kind of interior movement.
Kevin Lau: It begins with prayer. It begins with your internal world with your heart.
Andrew Kwok: This is definitely an interesting scenario in Hong Kong that if you have a chance to go to internet and then you search for Umbrella Movement or Occupy Central, then you will find they actually kicked off the movement in the church. And you'll find that actually, for Hong Kong Christian, I think the linkage between spirituality and social activism is not a new thing for us.
Kevin Lau: Prayer, community, and action. These three things are always combined.
Andrew Kwok: Yeah. So now, I think Kevin also pointed to a very good thing that happened in Hong Kong. You'll find that a lot of churches, now they recognize that if they want to have a kind of reconciliation, at least within the church, then spirituality is important. Actually, I would like to say that since 2019, a lot of churches and denominations invited me to give talks exactly about spirituality and peace within the church, and actually were always related to the social situation in Hong Kong. And so I think Kevin has made a very good observations to the Hong Kong situation.
Evan Rosa: From the perspective of the rest of the world, in general, internationally, we're seeing the rise of identitarian politics; we're seeing democracy begin to crumble in different parts of the world. The experiment of finding a shared truth in a shared public space, and then seeking flourishing in that is crumbling even in the US. And so from the perspective of Hong Kong people, Hong Kong Christians in particular, what is your hope for the future of peace and the hope of democracy?
Andrew Kwok: For me, I think that non-Western Christians will like US Christians to lift up a good Christian democracy in their country. I think US Christianity and democracy—you have a very long tradition, relationship with religion and democracy. But in the last few years, what happened in US Christianity and US society is very disappointed for those who look up for a democratic example in governance or in social order.
And for a non-Western Christians, we always think that democracy is an outcome of Christian spirituality. Without that spirituality, or without that Christian spirit or lifestyle, actually democracy cannot work. Democracy cannot be a peaceful social order, but run into a chaotic interest groups conflicts just like every day in every part of the world. And so that I think the relationship for peace and democracy from the perspective of non-Western Christians, and I hope that US Christians work harder to think how to revitalize the Christian spirit in your society.
Evan Rosa: Revitalizing that is absolutely important. I think that kind of public revitalization—as we've gone through this conversation, it's become clear that each of you are committed to the idea that we first need a kind of internal piece. And so Kevin, what are you thinking about the future of that kind of peace and healing of memory?
Kevin Lau: As much as internal piece, it is internal healing—healing of your memory. I remember reading Miroslav Volf's book, The End of Memory. It says you have to grasp tightly on to your identity, that you are the beloved child of God. You have to hold on to it with all your strength. I understand it when I was in the hospital because when the memory of affliction come, you cannot just forget it. You cannot let it growth pale. It won't. You cannot control it, suppress it. It would just suddenly pop up and hurt you and paralyze you again. It's very easy to identify yourself as the victim when those memories of afflictions and wounds come up. So you have to hold on tight to your core, to your being that you are the beloved child of God.
And then you can only face those horrible memory. Memory created by the shedding of blood cannot be overcome by forgetfulness. It can only be overcome by fixing your eyes on the cross, the cross in Golgotha. You can only face your terrible past by looking at the face of Jesus on the cross. That's when the holy memory of the cross start shadowing, overwhelming overtaking your own memory of the horrible affliction. I experienced that. I went through that. Healing starts from there. It was only with this healing that you become able to face the past, to face your memory, to face the reality. Then you can start hope.
Evan Rosa: I want to thank each of you for your time today. And for your continued witness for seeking the truth and for an embrace of peace and working for that kind of healing, even amidst conflict and chaos. I'm inspired by each of your resilience and perseverance and in seeking out the good of Hong Kong and being an example to the rest of the world.
Kevin Lau: Thank you.
Andrew Kwok: Thank you.
Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School. This episode featured journalist, Kevin Lau, and theologian, Andrew Kwok. I'm Evan Rosa, and I edited and produced the show. For more information, visit us online at faith.yale.edu. New episodes drop every Saturday with the occasional midweek. If you're new to the show, so glad that you found us. Remember to hit subscribe, so you don't miss any episodes. And if you've been listening for a while, thank you friends.
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