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Hong Kong students care for nature during Lent

Cleaning up a beach and an ecological pilgrimage are among the activities promoted by the Catholic Church
This picture taken on Nov. 9, 2023, shows a man carrying bags filled with plastic waste during a beach-cleaning drive near Clear Water Bay in Hong Kong.

This picture taken on Nov. 9, 2023, shows a man carrying bags filled with plastic waste during a beach-cleaning drive near Clear Water Bay in Hong Kong. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 20, 2024 08:10 AM GMT
Updated: March 26, 2024 07:36 AM GMT

Students from a Church-run school and a university in Hong Kong joined various ecological campaigns including cleaning a local beach as part of activities during the ongoing Season of Lent.

About 30 students and staff from Saint Francis University have participated in a series of environmental activities this month.

The university’s chaplaincy organized the program along with the Hong Kong Diocesan Commission for Integral Human Development (DCIHD).

In another program, teachers and students from Yan Tak Catholic Primary School embarked on a two-hour walk from Discovery Bay to the Our Lady of Joy Abbey at the outlying Lantau Island for the "Ecological Stations of the Cross", the diocesan Chinese weekly Kung Kao Po reported on March 17.

The path was one of the two routes promoted by the DCIHD to Catholics seeking prayers and meditations in nature through The Way of the Cross in the outdoors.

The Ecological Stations of the Cross, which involves walking up a mountain has helped bring “a deeper experience to the students and understanding that it may not be that easy to find Jesus at times,” said Lo Suk-ching, the school's headmistress.

In line with the pope’s call for care for nature, Hong Kong’s bishop Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-Yan invited Catholics to embrace “ecological conversion” in his Lenten pastoral letter “Journeying together as companions.”

As part of their program, the university students also watched "The Letter", an 80-minute documentary inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’ that urged actions to tackle the global ecological crisis arranged by the DCIHD.

They also attended a workshop conducted by Here In Nature, a local group of volunteers. It promotes environmental education and focuses on practical experience based on the “Seven Principles of Leave No Trace”, a framework of minimum impact practices visiting outdoors and the threat of plastic to marine ecology.

Following their workshop, the university students flocked to Lobster Bay and collected 31 kilograms of garbage.

“It makes one feel powerless thinking about the endless pollution, seeing the beach that seems so clean on the surface turns out to be full of garbage,” said Father J. A. de la Torre Guerrer, the university chaplain.

He said even one person's change can also have an impact and that person can become a driver of change in others.

“This is just the beginning. We will continue working together to protect the earth — our common home!” he added.

Hong Kong’s beaches are among the finest in the region, according to the government. The authorities regularly monitor beach water quality and employ a grading system for beaches.

However, around 3.2 billion pieces of minuscule plastic pollutants flow from Hong Kong’s drains into the sea every day, according to a study by marine environmental scientists from City University, the South China Morning Post reported on Jan. 3.

Researchers also found high levels of toxic plasticizers which can affect human, and animal development.

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