|During a field visit to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE), the participants of the ICF human rights workshop learn about the hundreds of people in Laos who are still killed or disabled each year by unexploded “bombies” dispersed by cluster bombs by the United States during the Vietnam War.|
Lectionary Selection: Matthew 11:2-11
Prayers for Hong Kong:
Lord, during this season of Advent, this season of waiting and expectation, we tell ourselves that you, indeed, are the One we are waiting for, that we are looking for no one else. But is this really true?
During your time among us, you restored the life of those who were blind, were lame, were sick, were deaf, were dead, were poor. In short, you gave fullness of life and dignity to those who were marginalized by society and who felt scorned. With the renewal of their lives and their spirits, you transformed them. These examples and teachings are what you have passed to us.
You also blessed those “who take no offense at me.”
We again would proclaim that we take no offense toward you; but when we survey our world today, we do take offense to you and the fullness of life you brought to us and your message of love, compassion, justice and peace to be shown to all people. We must confess that we do treat with contempt those who are a different race, a different nationality, a different faith; we sow divisions among ourselves even though we are all created in your image and are all children of God.
In our scripture passage today, you asked the crowds what did they seek when they went out into the wilderness with John the Baptist. We could ask the same question of ourselves: What do we expect to see in the wilderness of our world today? What are we looking for? Why? Will we know it when we find it?
In Hong Kong, we are not exempt from this message, for our society is fractured between the haves and have-nots. We have one of the world’s greatest gaps in income distribution between those who control the price of our daily necessities and the rest of us; our housing is among the most unaffordable globally so hundreds of thousands of our neighbors live in so-called coffin cubicles or caged homes or are McRefugees sleeping overnight in 24-hour fast food restaurants; migrant women who clean our homes and care for our children are viewed as second-class workers; asylum-seekers and refugees are perceived as merely economic migrants; and racial minorities, even those who are born here and speak Cantonese, feel the pain of discrimination.
Lord, we are in need of your message as much, or even more, than the people 2,000 years ago. We pray for your love and peace to fill us, your wisdom to guide us, in Hong Kong and the world today. Transform us, Lord, so that we can transform others. Amen.
Mission Stewardship Moment from Hong Kong:
Several years ago Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) began organizing national forums in countries where it had at least five School of Peace (SOP) alumni. Today there are ICF national forums in nine Asian countries—Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand. The national forums organize a variety of programs each year that strengthen the interfaith youth network for justpeace and that provide an opportunity to expand the network within their country.
It is within this framework that the ICF national forum in Laos hosted a one-week human rights workshop in September this year in the Laotian capital of Vientiane. For most of the 17 participants from the Lao Disabled People’s Association (LDPA), the Road Crash Prevention (RCP) team and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), this program was the first human rights workshop they had attended.
Thus, most of the curriculum of the workshop sought to lay a foundation of what constitutes human rights by discussing the core U.N. human rights treaties on civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights as well as the U.N. conventions on the rights of women and of children. Because more than half of the participants were disabled, a major thrust of this workshop was dedicated to presenting the U.N. human rights convention to define and uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
In addition to introducing these U.N. human rights covenants and conventions, the participants discussed religious freedom and the obstacles to human rights that people face in Laos and elsewhere in the region. Sessions of the workshop were also devoted to documenting human rights violations, advocacy for human rights and community organizing as a tool for people to identify their human rights problems and to respond to them.
The program included a one-day field visit to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, or COPE, that provides free rehabilitation services to people disabled by the U.S. bombing campaign that dropped an estimated two million tons of ordinance on Laos during the Vietnam War and that operates a museum about the effects of this war on the Laotian people. People even today are still affected by the “bombies” dispersed by cluster bombs during the war as up to 30 percent of the “bombies” failed to detonate, causing as many as 300 casualties per year. Children often think the unexploded “bombies” are toys, or farmers are injured while working in their fields.
During their field trip, the participants also visited a social enterprise operated by Asian Development with the Disabled Persons (ADDP), a Japanese non-profit organization, and LDPA to learn about their programs.
As well as myself, the sessions were conducted by a SOP alumnus from Cambodia, Hor Hen, who is part of a team of SOP alumni from throughout Asia that I’ve been training since 2012 to be human rights resource people. This series of training-of-trainers workshops are naturally an effort to improve the knowledge and skills of some of ICF’s SOP alumni and also to expand the number of people in ICF’s network who can be resource people on human rights within their own country and in the region.
(Prayer and Mission Moment by Bruce Van Voorhis)
Mission Partners in Hong Kong:
- Asian Human Rights Commission
- Christian Study Institute in Chinese Culture and Religion
- Chung Chi College Divinity School
- Hong Kong Christian Council
- Hong Kong Christian Institute
- Hong Kong Christian Service
- Hong Kong Christian Women's Council
- Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China
More information on Hong Kong: http://www.globalministries.org/hong_kong
Global Ministries Missionaries in Hong Kong:
Bruce Van Voorhis serves as a missionary with the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs in Hong Kong. His appointment is supported by appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.