“O land, land!”
Over the past 10 years I have worked with the Hong Kong Christians for Eco-concern network to produce materials for Environment Sunday, the first Sunday of June. This year we decided to do something different. Instead of group members doing the writing, we invited a lay church leader to pen the sermon. Elder Dr. Wong Fook-yee is a retired civil servant formerly in charge of Hong Kong’s countryside and marine parks. You may be thinking, Hong Kong has countryside and marine parks? Isn’t the city just one big urban jungle? That’s what you usually see in the media, but surprisingly, around 75% of Hong Kong’s 400 sq. miles is countryside. 40% has been preserved as country parks and marine parks. So when Dr. Wong accepted our invitation, we should not have been surprised by his chosen topic – land. He reminded us that 2015 is the U.N. International Year of Soils. And in his sermon he pointed out, “The fate of humans is closely related to the land. When humans sin, the land is also affected. All creatures were beyond the void, together they were groaning (Romans 8:20-22). Therefore, God, humans, and land are interrelated, interdependent and interconnected.”
For Hong Kong, land is one of the city’s most precious resources. It is also the source of many social conflicts and urban problems. Why? For one, due to the scarcity of land for development, there are fierce debates over the best way to use it for the benefit of Hong Kong’s 7 million people. Second, all the land is technically owned by the government. Much of the city’s revenue comes from leasing plots of land to the highest bidder among the big property developers who of course want to make as much profit off it as possible. Third, there is little appreciation among Hong Kong’s rich and powerful for the value of traditional villages, local farming and agriculture, and heritage sites. This situation unfortunately results in astronomical housing prices (like US$500,000 for a 600 sq. ft. apartment), proposals to extend a garbage landfill into part of a country park, and angry protests over the uprooting of villagers to build a high-speed railway to Guangzhou in mainland China.
From a spiritual point of view, one could say that Hong Kong is guilty of abusing God’s good gift of land. We exploit it for economic gain. We pollute it through inappropriate use. We even destroy it through neglect and poor planning and policy making. As God warned the earth and the people in Jeremiah 22:29: “O land, land hear the word of the Lord!”
Elder Wong proposed some solutions for the churches and people of Hong Kong:
- Follow the ‘Golden Rule’ in our treatment of the land. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (Matt. 7:12)
- Don’t put human demands above all other consideration. A purely commercial view that neglects social justice for the environment is a sin.
- Protect the land through proper legislation, good management and planning, and effective enforcement of policies.
- Experience the beauty of the earth in daily life. Live in harmony with nature. Proclaim the message of creation care in word and deed in our churches!
It is a great encouragement for us at Hong Kong Christian Council to work with church leaders like Wong Fook-yee who have devoted their whole career to caring for God’s earth. Through the participation of many ‘green Christians’ who are part of the HKCC network, we are changing the culture of our churches to become more environmentally aware and responsible. There’s still a long way to go, but starting in our own house is always the right step. What about your house?
Let me conclude by thanking you for your prayers and financial support through Global Ministries that make my environmental ministry in Hong Kong possible. Please continue to remember the suffering of the earth and its inhabitants in the growing number of environmental disasters and problems around the world. Together let us make a difference!
Yours in Christ,
Judy Chan serves with the Hong Kong Christian Council. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.