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Hong Kong Churches Open Doors to Protesters, Hold Prayer Vigils: 'Prayer Is The Strongest Weapon'

( [email protected] ) Sep 30, 2014 11:46 AM EDT

Hong Kong
Hong Kong police use tear gas to disperse the crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators (Aaron Tam / AFP / Getty Images)

As thousands of pro-democracy activists enter a third day of protests in Hong Kong, area churches hold vigils and encourage Christians to uphold the city prayer.

Currently, the streets of Hong Kong are flooded with people protesting the Chinese government's insistence on screening political candidates to ensure their allegiance to the CCP despite the promise of a fair and public election in 2017.

Demonstrators have blocked off roads in three major parts of the city and have threatened to expand demonstrations and to occupy government buildings if their conditions are not met.

The protests began last Friday when university and high school students took to the streets, and grew considerably when Occupy Central announced early Sunday that it would join the movement. Although the demonstrations have been relatively peaceful, several local police responded on Sunday with tear gas, pepper spray and riot gear in an attempt to dispel the demonstrators.

Among the leaders of the movement, 'Occupy Central with Love and Peace', are a number of Christians, including former Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and Baptist minister Rev Chu Yiu-ming.

Some churches are responding to the movement with prayer instead of protests, arguing that prayer is the strongest weapon of all.

The Vine, an international church located in Wan Chai district just a few blocks from the protests, has opened itself up for 48 hours as a place of prayer and intercession, as well as refuge, rest and support for those involved, reports ChristianToday.

Pastor Andrew Gardener released a statement yesterday, writing, "The last twenty four hours in Hong Kong has seen some scenes that we thought we would never see in our city. No doubt you have all been following what has been unfolding on our streets. We have seen some unprecedented social action with calls for more to come.

"It is times like these when we believe the church has an essential role to play in society," he continued.

"As a church we felt that our response should be to have a response. We feel passionate about justice, it sits at the heart of God and we feel God has been stirring it in our hearts over the years, so our building is open as a place of refuge for anybody that needs it...we want to make sure we're open for anybody in need," he said.

From 6pm until midnight on Thursday evening, The Vine will be open to the public with first aid supplies, food and water.

"We feel like God has called us to have both a spiritual and practical response, though you can't really separate the two," Gardener said.

"So spiritually we're digging into prayer and worship over the next 24 hours which will be crucial, and on the practical side we're saying if you need rest, refuge, first aid, if you're hungry or thirsty come to us.

"We feel very strongly that we have to be doing something, and it begins with prayer. Prayer may not be our only response, but it should be the loudest."

A professor at City University, Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, who was arrested and subsequently released due to his involvement with protests, said that Christians within the country will stand for what they believe despite pushback from the government.

"Christians by nature are anticommunist, as the Communist party are atheist and the tolerance for Christians under the Communist regime is extremely limited. Also, Christians believe in the next world, and so are more willing to sacrifice, and to fight injustice," he explained.

"It's very difficult to expect that the Chinese authorities will change their mind, but we just want to tell the world that we shall continue to fight, and we won't lose as long as we are able to maintain our principles and our dignity. We want to ensure that the spirit of Hong Kong will be maintained."

Cheng added that there is a fear that "if we don't speak up now, we may not be able to do so in a few years."

Jung Shin, a student at a local University in Hong Kong, reflected Cheng's sentiments and added that he, along with his friends, pray out loud while demonstrating.

"Protesting is important because it shows the government that we are passionate about something, and we are willing to fight for it," he said.

"But prayer is a far more powerful weapon. We must pray that the eyes of our government will be open, and that peace will reign in our county."

 

Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
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Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
A student protester is overcome by pepper spray from riot police as thousands of protesters surround the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sept. 28. Wally Santana / AP
Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
Protesters disperse as riot police fire teargas after thousands of protesters blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014. Bobby Yip/Reuters
Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
A protester raises his umbrellas in front of tear gas fired by riot police to disperse protesters blocking the main street to the financial Central district in Hong Kong on September 28, 2014. Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
A riot policeman uses pepper spray during clashes with protesters, as tens of thousands of protesters block the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on Sept. 28. Central Hong Kong descended into chaos on Sunday as chanting pro-democracy protesters converged on police barricades surrounding their colleagues despite the territory's leader calling for a halt to
Hong Kong Protest for Democracy
Bobby Yip/Reuters