Archbishop Paul Kwong — if we want to honestly face the root of conflicts in various places in the world today … we should treat them as a “mystery of the flesh,” so that, we can understand, accept and tolerate them with love.
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:
In response to the November terrorist attacks in Paris, a priest said: “Love is stronger than hatred and life triumphs over death.” We believe he has spoken on behalf of us all because this is also what we believe. In recent years, conflicts and killings out of hatred, violence and confrontations appeared in many places around the world. And as a result, many innocent people have been killed, have lost their homes and countries and have become refugees. According to the findings of a recent survey, the world has been moving away from peace and has been drawn into more and more conflicts since 2007. Among the 162 nations surveyed, only 11 have not yet been involved in any conflicts.
Hong Kong is not exempt from conflicts as we have also become involved in various conflicts and disputes. Our city has been divided and fragmented after the Occupy Movement and the dispute over political reform last year. When dealing with people and social issues, we begin to see the more frequent use of violent language and behaviours rather than mutual trust, tolerance, objectivity and rationality.
We understand that it is difficult to resolve these conflicts and challenges because of the complexity of the causes and different historical backgrounds. Thus, it would be wrong to simply categorize them into political, military, economic, religious or ethnic issues so that they could be resolved with corresponding political or military means. Such a quick fix approach would bring no lasting result but would make things worse. History and facts tell us that the global security issues that we face today are the result of using force against force, violence against violence, over a long period of time. The situation has not been improved but has given rise to more crises.
If we think deeply, it is more difficult to get along with a person than to manage a conflict because human beings are very complicated. People cannot be treated as things or issues. A contemporary Anglican theologian, the Revd Dr Sam Wells, reminds us that we should treat all the issues we face as a mystery not as problems to be solved quickly.
He explains that a mystery is different from a problem. When facing a problem, we can distance ourselves from it or to deal with it with science and technology. A broken window is a problem, and to resolve this problem is to replace it with a new window. At the same time, we can also use solutions used by other people to deal with this problem. However, when we face mystery it is totally different. We cannot stand outside of it, but must step in and get involved. We have to find the answer by ourselves and not to rely on others.
Christmas tells us that God does not see mankind as a problem. So, His Son became man, was born in Bethlehem and lived among us. This reveals God’s direct involvement with us, allowing Him to experience what we experience. He lived with the poor, the laboring, the oppressed, the weak and the sinners. Jesus did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, to suffer with humankind. But, at the same time, He loved and cared for all people. Standing in front of Him, no one feels he is a problem or a burden rejected by society. Jesus fed the poor, renewed the life of sinners, and freed slaves. He affirmed human dignity, changed human hearts, and reformed society.
Christmas reminds us that if we want to honestly face the root of conflicts in various places in the world today, we must learn from Jesus who does not see others as a “problem,” particularly those who are different from us in ethnicity, religion, race or political views. We should treat them as a “mystery of the flesh,” so that, we can understand, accept and tolerate them with love. It is only in this way that a society of mutual trust, mutual help and mutual love can be achieved. These elements are the most effective ways to resolve conflicts and killings out of hatred. After all, “Love is stronger than hatred and life triumphs over death.”
Finally, I wish you all a Merry Christmas full of love and life!
+ Paul Kwong