PEOPLE ARE IN search of freedom. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that history is a record of the fight for supremacy and freedom. But that entails a power that denies humans their desired freedom. The powerful and the fittest suppressed the weak and the poor, and that was regarded the norm of the day. The evil of slavery is as old as human history itself. Ironically, so-called civilised peoples deployed the most barbaric tactics in human history to subdue and subjugate the weak.
Today colonisation, slavery and human trafficking, genocide and ethnic cleansing still remain rampant in the world of the civilised humans. Is it because repression is an innate instinct of the primates that humans conveniently choose not to tackle? An anonymous saying goes: “There are only two kinds of people in the world: the oppressor and the oppressed. When one is no more the oppressed, one assumes the role of the oppressor.”
History repeats in our time. The economic and political power centres of the world determine who has or has not got the right to live and if living, how to live—dictating terms to the powerless billions on what to think, say or do. Although it sounds so cynical, repression has never succeeded in cowing the human spirit of freedom, love and peace. The concept of freedom has inspired hundreds of thousands of men and women to sacrifice their lives for the cause.
“Free Hong Kong,” has been a slogan heard aloud on streets and malls since June 2019. The obvious reason for the cry is the people’s fear. Their government has succeeded in instilling in them the fear of losing their freedoms: the freedom to think for themselves and to believe in what they think is right, freedom of speech and expression. Even as the Hong Kong government assures the people that they will continue to enjoy existing freedoms, no one is so certain of the future.
The future of religious freedom is a concern for the Church. In spite of the good gestures of provisional agreement on appointment of bishops between Vatican and Beijing almost two years ago, reports from the mainland have been far from promising. Large numbers of Catholics themselves have disagreed over the provisional agreement and were critical of Vatican’s gesture of dialogue.
As the time frame for the provisional agreement comes to its close this September, the fears of many of its critics stand vindicated as there have been reports of the government preventing children below the age of 18 from attending Church services, churches being demolished and crosses from church buildings removed. A couple of months ago, the provincial administration of the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia gave instructions to parents preventing them from giving religious instruction to their children even at home.
It is fear that rules the present moment—the people fear the new regulations could be detrimental to the life of Hong Kong they have known for decades, while the government’s fear of freedom for people could lead to separatism, subversion and terrorism.
Let me leave you with a quote from Richard Rohr: “When we place all of our identity in our one country, security system, religion, or ethnic group, we are unable to imagine another way of thinking.
“In the world, but not of the world” was the historic phrase commonly used by many Christians, whereas today most of us tend to be in the system, of the system, and for the system—without even realizing it!” Jose