Violence in the name of religion
José Miguel Encarnação
The Bishop of Hong Kong considers that “the international community cannot tolerate Islamic extremism,” and “must be on guard” against all forms of violence.
In a brief statement to O CLARIM on March 19 at the Bishop’s Palace, Cardinal John Tong called on “all without exception” – be they Catholic or non-Catholic – “not to offend those who profess Islam” but argued, however, that “[the Catholic Church] should oppose extremism in the Middle East.”
Not wanting to explore the issue further, he concluded: “We love our neighbor, so we do not fight them. Of course there are exceptions and the violence which we have been witnessing has to stop.”
Asked about how the work of the Consultative Conference of the Chinese People’s Political and National People’s Congress was going, during which religion was not a topic of discussion, Bishop Tong relativized the matter, saying: “The situation in China has improved. Today the Chinese can travel abroad; they can observe and know other realities. Seeing what is happening out there widens their horizons and they bring back with them the hope of more freedom. I am optimistic.”
By way of comparison, the prelate recalled “about a hundred trips” that he had made to China: “After the time of Deng Xiaoping in late 1979, I traveled a lot in China. At that time the country was less tolerant and open to the outside. Priests were forbidden to post the image of the Pope in the churches. Since then I have followed the evolution and the related changes made by the Central Government. Despite all the problems, the improvements are significant.”
The Bishop of Hong Kong was in Macau to preside over the solemn Mass in the Church of St. Joseph’s Seminary, part of the program to celebrate the patron of the educational institution. Before the liturgical celebration, Cardinal Tong met with Bishop of Macau José Lai in the Bishop’s Palace.
Himself a former student of the seminary, Bishop Tong summarized the start of the journey of his life: “Whenever I come to Macau, I recall olden times. I came to Macau in February 1951 from Canton. I had not completed primary school. Canton was under the control of the communist regime in 1949. In the early days nothing happened, until they began to expel the missionaries and to pursue the more affluent. Although the movement of people was monitored, many managed to escape. I was fortunate enough to come to the seminary, where I could study, learn moral and ethical values, and find my calling. From Macau I headed to Hong Kong, where I studied philosophy and theology. From there I went to Rome and returned to Hong Kong after ordination to the priesthood.”
The Cardinal returned to the former British colony on the same day.