The year Linda Lee Stassen-Benjamin wrote the Christian worship song “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”, OPEC ended its oil embargo against the United States, America and Russia came together to discuss nuclear disarmament, India tested an atomic device and President Richard Nixon resigned after being impeached in the Watergate scandal. It was 1974 and the cost of a first class stamp was only 8 cents.
Forty-five years later, the song, written as a tribute to Easter, has become the anthem of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The protests began in June after the government announced plans to extradite suspects to China for criminal prosecution. The plan was later shelved, but protesters continue to press for democratic reforms, fearing communist China will scrap the existing ‘one country, two systems’ model put in place when Britain returned its former colony to China 22 years ago, reported Religion News Service. .
The Hong Kong song and Christian involvement emerged at the start of the protest movement, but was highlighted again on August 23 when Christians held their first large-scale rally in Chater Garden. According to a press release from the organizers, the rally’s motto was “Salt and Light, For Justice We March Together” and aimed to “give all Christians a platform to speak out outside of the church, hoping that people would protect Hong Kong by singing, praying, worshiping God and at the same time standing up for justice and standing with all Hong Kong people in difficult times.
Although the protests were marred by incidents of tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, riot shields and acts of intimidation which included the staging of troops and military vehicles along Hong Kong border, the peaceful influence of the anthems has helped keep the peace, some protesters say.
“It has a calming effect,” Timothy Lam, 58, a Catholic priest at Grace Church Hong Kong, told Fox News in June. “The police had a lot of equipment, they were very tense and were searching people. The students sang this to show that they were peaceful.”
Along with the song’s inspirational element, protesters said it also helped protect the crowd, as Hong Kong law provides an assembly exemption for religious gatherings. According to Fox News, the song helped ease tensions with law enforcement at a time when they were preparing to quell “organized riots” and when allegations of police brutality emerged.
“As religious assemblies were exempted, it could protect protesters. It also shows that this is a peaceful protest,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students. “It’s the one people have chosen because it’s easy to follow, with a simple message and an easy melody.”
Christians have expressed concern over a crackdown by mainland China, fearing widespread religious persecution in the communist nation could seep into Hong Kong and drive the church underground.
The flow reported that Christians also provided practical assistance in the form of food and shelter during various protests.
“We believe in upholding justice,” said David Cheung, a pastor who has participated in protests. New York Times. “Our faith gives us courage, confidence and hope against this evil government power.”
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