CHINESE NEW YEAR is an auspicious time of family reunions for Chinese people across the globe. They wish one another good fortune, happiness and good health. Sadly though, the Year of the Rat failed to have the desired propitious start. Instead, celebrations were dampened by the news of the outbreak of a dreaded virus in the most populous country in the world. The 2019-nCoV coronavirus epidemic has pressed the panic button for over a billion people within China and many more across the world.
In a video message, John Cardinal Tong Hon, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, called on people to reach out to support and encourage one another in our efforts to fight this epidemic. He exhorted everyone to try their best to say a word of encouragement, care and concern to their neighbours and to walk with the whole of society to overcome the challenges with faith, hope and love.
Ever since the news of the virus outbreak, stores across the region have run out of surgical face-masks, alcoholic hand cleansers and wet-wipes. A lot of people tend to hoard these essential commodities for future use in case of an eventuality. But, the poor and socially disadvantaged ethnic minorities cannot afford such foresight and stockpiling. A box of face-masks sold for $250 and sometimes $300 in some stores in Hong Kong, making it hard for the poor to purchase them. Human selfishness and craving for higher profits even in the midst of such humanitarian crisis is deplorable.
A Christian response to such moments of crises calls on the faithful not to be content with caring for their own good health, but to be equally concerned about one’s neighbours. Now is the right time to act: share your extra face-mask with someone who does not have one.
Jesuit Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, provincial superior of the Jesuit China province, made an appeal to the alumni, students, parents, and staff of Wah Yan College and to all well-wishers to join a donation campaign for medical face-masks. “We believe this is the approach we should take along the spirit of five loaves and two fish. This is an excellent way for us to put our words into action—‘women and men for and with others’. It would also be a nice way to celebrate who we are during this anniversaries year,” Father Chow’s Facebook appeal reads.
Cardinal Tong’s appeal to ‘say a word of encouragement to our neighbour’ requires serious attention as well. Ensure one’s words seek to encourage and care and not to scare people! Social media is busy disseminating ‘news’ about large numbers of casualties and the government not being truthful, but not verifying their accuracy and reliability. Sharing ‘fake news’ on social media is an act of gossip and hence a sin! Refrain from creating or sharing fake news and gossip!
For Hong Kong, after being beleaguered by political and social unrest for the entire second half of 2019 over the fugitive extradition bill, any further disruption to the city in engaging in its daily business would mean fighting two battles at simultaneously: financial and the epidemic.
Pope Francis prayed for people in China in his Angelus address on January 26: “May the Lord welcome the deceased in his peace, comfort families and support the great commitment of the Chinese community, already put in place to fight the epidemic.” jose