Marti and I are back in Hong Kong for a Gathering of the wider Chinese family. As I write, there are massive demonstrations against the Beijing government. Some Hong Kong citizens, especially young people, are angry, feeling that their democratic freedoms are being steadily lost to the mainland government. Others in Hong Kong feel strongly that it is best to not stir up trouble with the Chinese Communist Party.
These political divisions have created differences of opinion between Christians here in Hong Kong and between mainland believers and HK Christians. We are back at the Expo centre, expecting thousands again, and trusting the Holy Spirit to bring oneness.
To some extent these complexities and divisions can be traced to the history of troubled relationships between China and Western nations. The events of the 19th century still occupy a central place in the way history is taught to Chinese children. They understand that western powers, in their greed for Chinese goods, forced China to take opium in exchange for tea, porcelain, fine art and other Chinese products. Their history lessons point out that China was forced into poverty for a century, until the Chinese Communist Party began to bring freedom and prosperity.
In light of these deeply held beliefs, we read out a message of reconciliation to the 20,000+ Chinese who gathered here at the All-Asia Expo in 2013. That message is still relevant and very important today. This is what we read:
Reconciliation Message as read to the All Asia Gathering, Hong Kong July 2013
We are Christian leaders from the Body of Christ in the nations that formed the Eight-Nations Alliance and from various other nations that engaged in corrupt trade practices and military aggression against China. Our nations, beginning with the Dutch, nearly four centuries ago, coveted Chinese goods and conspired to pay for them with opium.
European nations, along with the United States of America prospered as a result of God’s grace through the availability and application of His Word in our laws and governments, but we often turned His blessing into a curse on other nations. Great Britain was especially blessed with revival and social transformation as Christians took a lead in society but turned its prosperity into military might which it used to colonize many nations and against China to force open its ports and then its inland regions.
The widespread addiction to opium and the cost of the two opium wars and the penalties forced on China in the Unequal Treaties helped impoverish generations of Chinese.
Many Christian missionaries gave their lives and the lives of their families to China, often making great sacrifices. Yet, they gained access as a result of warfare and unjust treaties. They too rarely spoke against these acts of injustice and lethal force. Therefore, the Gospel message was seen as a European religion associated with foreign domination. As a result, those Chinese who gave their lives to Christ and were willing to suffer for Him, suffered unjustly for being associated with the greed and pride and aggression of our nations. Generations of our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ have suffered, not only for the sake of Christ, but for the sins of our forefathers.
Though Christians in our government mounted a successful campaign to stop slavery, their voices were silent or faint about the lethal trade in opium and the military aggression to support it.
THEREFORE, as Christian brothers, speaking to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we identify with the sins of our forefathers and repent of their sins and ours—serving mammon rather than God, polluting the Gospel by mixing it with injustice and lethal force.
We repent that we assumed that God’s blessing on our nations was as a result of some intrinsic superiority. So we imposed ourselves on many other nations exploiting and oppressing them.
We repent of our selfishness and greed that led directly to much greater suffering—even to this day—amongst our Family in Christ Jesus.
We repent of our nationalism and pride that put the benefit of our nation and empire before the blessing of our Family in Christ.
We humble ourselves before you, knowing that these words and this act cannot undo the untold damage, but we pray that they might lead toward forgiveness, healing and unbreakable love between us.