HONG KONG – Yau has lost one-third of the value of his financial investments and real estate in a few months as part of the global financial crisis.
However, "money is not all our lives" and there is "something more meaningful", the local Catholic told UCA News in early November. The financial crisis gave him "a good chance to reflect on the values that he used to hold to", and his faith has given him strength and support to face the difficult moment, added the father of two children.
Like many others in Hong Kong, an international financial hub hit hard by the global financial crisis, Yau is facing uncertainty, given that several large corporations recently folded because the banking sector tightened loans and credit on their businesses.
Similarly, a laywoman surnamed Yiu also saw 20 percent of her three-person family’s wealth vanish in days.
Facing their investment losses, "made me recognise that the more things we hold on to, the easier they vanish", Yiu said. "What we should concern ourselves with is how to maintain our faith and belief."
During these economic hard times, Yiu believes Catholics should pray more, spend more time with their families, share their unhappy feelings with friends and "thank God for their remaining assets".
Father Stephen Tam Kwan, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, told UCA News a parishioner who lost a great deal of money investing in "mini-bonds" through Lehman Brothers asked if he should join the protests against banks’ alleged misleading promotion of that financial product.
The priest recalled his reply to the layperson: that the public should be concerned with the Lehman incident, but investors should also bear the responsibility and risk of their investments.
Hundred of thousands of local investors had put a combined HK$15.7 billion (S$3 billion) into mini-bonds and other derivatives issued or guaranteed by Lehman Brothers, the U.S. investment bank that filed for bankruptcy in September. Mini-bonds are complex, high-risk derivatives that were nowhere as safe as the "bonds" in their name suggested.
Father Tam noted that Catholic faith teaches believers to maintain a peaceful mind, be cautious with money and rebuild spirituality in this chaotic world.
Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar general of Hong Kong diocese, hopes local Catholics will understand that life is full of unexpected things and they should have faith in God.
At a time when many are worried about their jobs, Father Chan, also pastor of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, and
Father Tam observed that Sunday Mass collections have not dwindled.
"Most of the faithful in my parish are elderly, and some live on government subsidies, but they did not have failed investments, maybe (because) they could not afford to invest," Father Tam noted. His parish is located in Sham Shui Po, a densely populated, low-income area in Kowloon.
Italian Father Pietro Zamuner, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in the New Territories, expects the full impact of the financial crisis to come in early 2009, and his parish plans to reserve funds to help parishioners in need, just in case.
Despite the gloomy prospects, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions priest told UCA News he advises Catholic families to teach their children to "show mutual concern for others who are in the same boat".
Father Thomas Kwan Tsun-tong, who teaches moral theology at the diocesan Holy Spirit Seminary College, urged the Church to examine the genuine need of those who suffered from the crisis. "The root of such financial crisis is avarice, but we must differentiate greediness from those victims who desired to make rational and stable investments. The latter really need help," he said.
The Church should not just stay with the teachings and "beautiful slogans" of helping one another, but expand its network to understand people’s lives and give a hand to those in need, he continued. He suggested parishes could organise voluntary services, mutual help networks and cooperative associations.
On Nov 29, Father Kwan will preside at a special Mass and host a faith reflection and sharing on the financial crisis, co-organised by the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family and the Catholic-run Couple Co-Creation Society Limited. n