Pro-China mob harassed ‘Pray for Hong Kong’ group at Tenth Church: statement

Pro-China protesters surrounded Tenth Church, where people were attending a prayer meeting for Hong Kong. Photo: Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice.

Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice will host another Pray for Hong Kong gathering at Tenth Church this Sunday afternoon (September 8).

Their last prayer gathering was disrupted (Terry Glavin put the event in perspective in an insightful Vancouver Sun article, Beijing casts shadow of fear across Canada), so I am sure they would love support, both in person and in spirit.

Here is what I posted August 20, following their last gathering:

About 100 pro-China demonstrators followed a ‘Pray for Hong Kong’ group from the Chinese Consulate – where both groups had been gathered, separately – to Tenth Church August 18.

While the Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice prayed inside the building, protesters held flags and placards, and some took photos of those who had been praying as they left the church.

Following is a statement from VCLPJ following the incident.

As the organizing group, we would like to respond to a few comments here (some being deleted by the persons posting the comments) accusing us of “lying,” “falsely” characterizing the massive flag-waving crowd incident as bullying, and “inciting” hatred, etc.

1) This Pray for Hong Kong event was a prayer meeting in its form, intent and content, instead of a “political” gathering as the flag-waving crowd or some commentators here might think. This was the fourth prayer meeting we organized since early June. All went uneventfully, except this time.

2) As always at these prayer meetings, including this one, we pray for Hong Kong and the people there, including those in the political leadership (1), the police officers, those who were hurt physically (2) and those inflicted injuries on others violently (3). We pray for peace and justice in Hong Kong. And we pray for the churches in Hong Kong and mainland China as well. Meanwhile, we pray for those living here in Vancouver who have been deeply disturbed, saddened, even traumatized because of the recent situation in Hong Kong and the resulting deep divisions among families, even within churches, and allow rooms for them to share and to grieve. We see this as a pastoral ministry for those under our care.

3) During the prayer meetings, we did not talk about or advocate political positions. While all participants are entitled to their own convictions and positions about the ongoing situation in HK, we welcome all to come and pray, as they desire and choose to do so (4).

Of course, as responsible pastors and theologically trained ministry workers, we realize that we cannot avoid the issues and we have to name the pains and evils at hand, based on the facts from the unfolding events as far as we can see and as much as possible (5). People might accuse us not being neutral, but in our view there is no neutrality in the biblical sense of justice and the societal understandings of sanity, decency and human dignity (6). We recognize there might be disagreements as to what “facts” are, at least we come together as the body of Christ during this difficult time for many (7). We are not seeking “uniformity” but “unity,” which assumes diversity.

4) During the incident outside of the venue yesterday in the afternoon, almost halfway through the prayer meeting as scheduled, a large number of people carried and waved the Chinese national flags, holding protest signs, many dressed in red, and congregated in front of the church front gate and on the sidewalks nearby, literally having the main entrance portion of the church surrounded.

At one point there were reports from other people also present inside the church that the crowd attempted to force into the building, but was prevented by church members, and that there was a scene of argument between someone and the flag-waving crowd as cited by some news media reports. We don’t have any knowledge of these nor are able to verify as we were all at a more isolated part of the building for the prayer meeting.

Nevertheless, the way of such behaviours by the flag-waving crowd at a moment of such partisan intensity and sensitivity (with references to many similar incidents on university campuses and other related protest sites around the world), and in front of a religious building hosting a religious gathering, as a whole their behaviours in this incident constituted a classic form of intimidation and bullying. This is a serious matter which we all need to address and denounce (8).

Chinese government supporters in front of Tenth Church. Still from theBreaker news video.

5) The Vancouver Police Department dispatched near 20 officers at the scene around the same time. Later we learned from the officers that they did not know about this prayer meeting and the venue initially, until they followed the red-flag waving crowd from an earlier protest and counter-protest rallies in front of the Chinese Consulate General in Vancouver, and found us under such circumstance.

When the prayer meeting came to an end as scheduled, the police officers helped us to clear a few paths of exit in front of the flag-waving crowd. We all left without any further incident. Some participants of the prayer meeting felt threatened or fear[ful] as they left the venue because of the massive flag-waving presence with potentially hostile intent.

6) We will certainly organize similar prayer gathering(s) down the road, as the situation in HK is still unfolding. Since this prayer meeting, and any subsequent similar meeting, is non-partisan in nature, we welcome all to join us in prayer, including anyone in the flag-waving crowd, as long as they are sincerely seeking God’s guidance and desiring to love those who are in suffering (9). People from different convictions are welcome to share their honest feelings about how they experience the HK events. The only thing we request is to leave the flags, partisan signs and partisan utterances at home, and not to interrupt, disturb or disrupt the order of services and the prayers in progress.

7) If any incident or behaviour assembling or similar to the one on Sunday takes place again in any of our future prayer gatherings, we will report to the local authority. Such behaviours could be considered criminal offenses under Canadian laws. Please take this as courteous advice.

8) For all other more sympathetic commentators, we thank you for your attention, support and care in this incident. The prayer meeting was not disturbed and was finished as planned and scheduled. No further incident has happened as we left the venue. We gave thanks to God for his protection! (10)

Meanwhile, would you mind to leave your comments with grace, particularly from those who are Christians in confession. This is a public post and we have no control over what and how people make comments. From a pastoral perspective, we always try to leave room for others who might not even truly know what they were really doing (as modeled after our Lord in one of his final prayers) (11). [See Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice Facebook page for comments.]

Thank you very much!

1 Timothy 2:2
2 Psalms 107:20
3 2 Chronicles 7:14
4 Ephesians 6:18
5 Micah 6:8
6 Luke 4:18-19 (citing Isaiah)
7 Isaiah 1: esp. v.14
8 Jeremiah 25:5; Is. 55:7
9 Matthew 11:28-30
10 Psalm 46:1
11 Luke 23:34

Go here for story and here for a South China Morning Post story. Church for Vancouver posted a story about an earlier prayer rally at the Chinese Consulate.

Douglas Todd has just written (September 5) a good Vancouver Sun article about local perspectives on the situation: Hong Kong protesters turn 1970s hymn into anthem.

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2 comments for “Pro-China mob harassed ‘Pray for Hong Kong’ group at Tenth Church: statement

  1. This group forgot how the overseas Chinese churches prayed for China in 1989 for the Tiananmen Square students.

  2. Encouraged by your commitment to pray for all sides involved and for justice. Thank you for the kind response and clarifications concerning the demonstrations, and may God continue to give you wisdom, insight and love during this difficult time.

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