Mennonite World Conference sent a delegation in December to Hong Kong to hear church members’ concerns and show solidarity amid political unrest and social shifts that can lead to differences of opinion within families.
Responding to a request for perspectives on Anabaptist peacemaking, the delegation from MWC’s Peace and Deacons commissions visited three Mennonite churches Dec. 1-8, along with other denominations and educational institutions.
Hong Kong is experiencing its most tumultuous political situation in decades. Protests, mostly involving young people, are continuing into a sixth month.
The protesters demand withdrawal of an extradition bill, investigation into alleged police brutality, full amnesty for those arrested during the protest, declassification of protesters as “rioters” and universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
Although the extradition bill has been withdrawn, protesters refuse to back down until all five demands are met.
Delegation member Wendy Kroeker, who teaches peace and conflict transformation studies at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Man., observed a generational split.
“Youth in the church have said we need to be on the streets, and if the church isn’t out there with us, then we don’t know what its relevance is for our lives,” said Kroeker, a member of the Peace Commission.
“The thinking with older people is ‘Mennonites are peaceful, right? So, we shouldn’t be out there. Right?’ That of course begs the question, what is a Mennonite peace theology?”
Kroeker was joined by Peace Commission chair Joji Pantoja, who serves with Mennonite Church Canada as a mission worker in the Philippines, and Deacons Commission members Siaka Traoré of Burkina Faso and Henk Stenvers of the Netherlands.
The delegation listened to the experiences and hopes of church members while also sharing some of their experience of mediation and reconciliation.
Jeremiah Choi, pastor of Agape Mennonite Church in Hong Kong, said people are accustomed to focusing on studies or work rather than politics.
“Now they have political aspiration, but politics are dividing the people, including in the church,” he said. “We ask that the global church support us in prayer. Pray for wisdom for the leaders, the protesters and the police, that there will be a peaceful resolution to this and that churches can have unity and become peacemakers when some choose to be violent.”