Story 99 - Hong Kong Migration
By Suzie Abramian 13/04/2021
"... I was a stranger and you invited me into your home." - Matt 25.35
Many stories and testimonies about mission involve hospitality, whether as the guest who is invited in, or as the host, welcoming in the stranger. There is currently an opportunity for churches in the UK, which may not be seen again for another generation, to offer hospitality for migrants arriving in the UK from Hong Kong on a mass scale. As Baptist Together, there has also arisen the opportunity for a new role of a Response Co-ordinator to oversee our involvement in this across Baptists Together. (Job details below)
In light of the new national security laws imposed by China in Hong Kong in 2020 and the ensuing pro-democracy demonstrations, the UK made a pledge to the people of Hong Kong to introduce a new visa which will enable 5.4 million Hong Kong residents the right to come and live in the UK, and eventually become citizens. This new visa came into effect at the end of January 2021, and it is estimated that between 130,000 and 300,000 will take up the offer over the next year. While many of those arriving will be leaving Hong Kong as economic migrants there will be some who will need to leave for their own safety.
Indeed, some Baptists have been at the forefront of the pro-democracy protests, and early targets of the new security laws. This is not just an opportunity for us to offer hospitality, but also to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Some Hong Kongers have already made their way here, and Trinity Baptist Church in Derby has already started to be a place of welcome for them. Sharon Shek, a Hong Kong national who made the move to the UK in February 2021 contacted Baptists Together, and was able to start making connections with churches whilst she was still in Hong Kong enabling her to easily contact the minister of Trinity Baptist, Revd. Ellen Price, when she arrived in the UK.
Like many immigrants, it is clear from speaking to Sharon that there are enormous obstacles facing Hong Kong nationals as they enter the UK. In Hong Kong, Sharon was a minister in a large Baptist Church, overseeing the church’s outreach ministries in the 4,500 strong congregation. Here in the UK, as Sharon says, she is having to learn everything from the start again. Now, retraining as an electrician, Sharon is keen to welcome other Hong Kong nationals and support them as they adjust to a new life here. At Trinity Baptist, Ellen says that as part of their church’s vision to have a community of openness to all, they are praying that Sharon can gather Chinese speakers, particularly those who arrive from Hong Kong over the next months to become one of their small groups.
With the added difficulties caused by the coronavirus restrictions, a warm welcome to people like Sharon from a church was even more vital. Sharon notes how encouraging it was to receive flowers from a member of the church, practical help and information, as well as invitations to join online gatherings and face-to face meet ups. ‘The first thing we need is information,’ says Sharon and to be precise – correct information, clearly given in verbal form, to help explain the many new aspects of living in a foreign country. A further need for many Hong Kong nationals is accommodation. With stories of some living long-term in Airbnb’s, many cannot obtain rentals without work. There are opportunities here for churches and their congregations to see how they could help with housing.
Sharon describes Hong Kong as a painful and bitter place, and she encourages us to be praying for those who are broken hearted by the situation there, as well as for the families who are struggling with division and strained relationships. Let us also pray that the church here in the UK will welcome in the stranger and look to really understand the situation of those they meet.
In Simon Goddard’s article ‘Is your church Hong Kong ready?’ (see below) he includes the video of an event hosted by Krish Kandiah on 28 January 2021 for churches across the UK, helping them to know more about what is happening and how they can respond. At this event the related initiative – enabling churches to sign up to become a ‘Hong Kong Ready Church’ - was launched.
More details about this can be found at ukhk.org which was founded by Krish Kandiah alongside Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London. Krish notes that despite these being difficult and unprecedented times during a pandemic, sometimes ‘it’s in the middle of a crisis that we’re able to demonstrate what real faith, real hospitality looks like,’ and as Ellen notes from the personal experience of meeting and welcoming Sharon, ‘the reality of what is happening in Hong Kong is being brought to us’.