The 5th of May, Friday (the 5th day of the week, according to the Chinese way of calculating), 1995, 5:00-that was the time for inaugural meeting of the Hong Kong Network on Religion and Peace (HKNRP). 5 fives running together, it must be an auspicious time!

But HKNRP is actually a humble organization -only a loose network of organization and individual who are concerned about peace.

The origin of the forming of the network goes back to a Seminar on "Crises and Opportunities for Peace" held in Hong Kong, 21-23 February, 1994. This seminar was under the sponsorship of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) with the cooperation of the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion on Culture.

The East Asia Committee of ACRP had approached me to help them organize a seminar on peace with particular reference to the East Asian region. I have had experience and involvement in interfaith relations and dialogue. When it comes to the subject of peace, I at first thought that the religionists are usually up in the clouds with their lofty ideals (and sometime empty dreams), not knowing how to deal with the worldly realities, whereas those who are steeped in the practical affairs of the world, like politicians and political scientists, usually do not know how religions might be relevant to peace (and sometimes religions create conflicts).

My initial reaction was that I was skeptical about the fruitfulness of a seminar on religion and peace. But the persons involved in the planning worked hard to get the right people to come. In the end 20 persons from countries in East Asia came for the seminar. The results exceeded my expectations. After the seminar, there was continued interest in the subject of peace on the part of religious-minded people in Hong Kong. Some people asked, "Why not form a council or network locally to link up the religious-minded individuals and religious organizations to work for peace?"

I thought that would be a good ideal, but retiring as the director of the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture, I was talking up new responsibilities as a professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, so I would not have time to initiate the new venture. Just at that time, Pino Cipollari appeared on the scene. He was full of enthusiasm for peace work, and volunteering his service, he plunged in to contact the various religious bodies and individuals of all kinds of religious persuasions, and he got positive responses. I myself have been surprised at the interest shown in peace by religious people. After meeting informally several times, it was felt that the time was ripe to organize the Hong Kong Network on Religious and Peace.

In my absence I was elected to be the moderator of the network. I would not have accepted but for the enthusiasm and efficiency I found in the colleagues.

As I intimated, this is a humble beginning of a low-key organization. But if there is anything significant other than pure coincidence of the coming together of the number 5 five times as the opening data of HKNRP, that beginning may indeed be more than humble. I have been surprised by good results on peace work before.

By Rev. Dr. Peter K.H. Lee


World Religions