Religion in Hong Kong
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Religion in Hong Kong is part of the culture of Hong Kong. Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights enjoyed by Hong Kong people. It is protected by the Basic Law and relevant legislation. There is a large variety of religious groups in Hong Kong including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Jainism. As of 2010[update] the region has approximately 1.5 million Buddhists, 1 million Taoists, 480,000 Protestants, 353,000 Roman Catholics, 220,000 Muslims, 40,000 Hindus, 10,000 Sikhs, and other smaller communities. Apart from offering religious instructions, many major religious bodies have established schools and provided social welfare facilities.
The majority of residents of Hong Kong are either agnostic, atheist, or indifferent towards religion. According to the U.S. Department of State, only 43 percent of the population practices some form of religion.[better source needed] According to a Gallup poll, 64% of Hong Kong residents do not follow any religion. According to another Gallup poll, 22% of Hong Kongers said that religion was an important part of their daily lives, the seventh lowest of 143 countries and territories, with a follow rate[clarification needed] of only 22%.
Buddhism and Taoism
Buddhism and Taoism have a considerable number of adherents in Hong Kong (more than 1 million Buddhists and about 1 million Taoists). There are more than 600 temples in the HKSAR. The history of some of these temples can be traced back to more than 700 years ago, while some others have been built in recent years. Notable temples include the Wong Tai Sin Temple located in the Wong Tai Sin District in Kowloon. This popular temple is dedicated to the Taoist deity, Wong Tai Sin. Besides that, the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill is a group of temple structures in the Tang Dynasty's architectural style. It is now open to the public following the completion of its redevelopment in 2000.
The Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island is famous for the outdoor bronze statue, Tian Tan Buddha, which attracts a large number of visitors during the weekends and holidays. It is now linked to the city's latest tourist attraction Ngong Ping 360. The cable car and park complex is built around a Buddhism theme, featuring sites of the Wisdom Path and the Po Lin Monastery.
Buddhist organizations and temples in Hong Kong have long been involved in social welfare and education in the city. The Buddhist's Association of Hong Kong operates a dozen primary and secondary schools, and elderly homes as well as centres for youth and children in Hong Kong.
The leadership of mainstream Buddhists organizations have aligned themselves with the establishment in Hong Kong. For example, high-ranking Buddhist Association's executives have openly endorsed the re-election of the city's Chief Executive Donald Tsang. Several of the association's members were on the Drafting Committee of the Basic Law.
Under the leadership of the former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, the SAR government formally recognised the influence of Buddhism in Hong Kong. In 1997 the SAR government designated one public holiday in May or June to mark Buddha's Birthday, which replaced the Queen's birthday. Tung himself is a Buddhist and participated in major, widely publicised Buddhist activities in Hong Kong and China.
Academic studies and research of Buddhism in Hong Kong have thrived over the past 10 years. The University of Hong Kong has a Centre of Buddhist Studies. The Chinese University of Hong Kong also has a Centre for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism.
The Soka Gakkai International has an estimated 50,000 members in Hong Kong. The local association is called Soka Gakkai International of Hong Kong (HKSGI) and it promotes peace, culture and education based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism.≤ref≥ " "
Strictly speaking a philosophy rather than a religion, Confucianism is a belief in the teachings of Confucius who lived in ancient China from 551 to 479 B.C. His teachings were based on moral code for human relations with emphasis on the importance of tradition and rites. He was one of the most eminent thinkers of the time, a great sage and educator whose philosophy has deeply influenced the political, economic and social systems of China. He has also been hailed as an exemplary mentor for all ages. The major festival of Confucianism is Confucius' birthday that falls on the 27th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Confucians in Hong Kong have been deeply involved in education. They run a number of local schools with an objective of promoting the teachings of Confucius.
The Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong was established as a Mission Prefecture in 1841 and as an Apostolic Vicariate in 1874. It became a diocese in 1946. About 353.000 Hongkongers (or Cantonese) are Catholics. They are served by 309 priests, 60 brothers and 519 sisters. There are 52 parishes, comprising 40 churches, 30 chapels and 28 halls for religious service. Services are conducted in Cantonese, with three-fifths of the parishes providing services in English and in Tagalog in some cases. The diocese has established its own administrative structure while maintaining close links with the Pope and other Catholic communities around the world. It has the same creed, Scripture, liturgy and organisation as the other culture communities world wide. The assistant secretary-general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference has his office in Hong Kong. Along with its apostolic work, one of the prime concerns of the diocese has been for the well-being of all the Hongkongers. In education, there are 320 Catholic schools and kindergartens which have about 286.000 pupils. There is the Catholic Board of Education to assist in this area. The medical and social services include six hospitals, 15 clinics, 13 social centres, 15 hostels, 12 homes for the aged, 15 rehabilitation service centres and many self-help clubs and associations. Caritas (which runs many youth and social organisations and even a hospital) is the official social welfare arm of the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong. These services are open to all people. Indeed, 95 per cent of those who have benefited from the wide range of services provided by the diocese are not Catholics. To reach people through the media, the diocese publishes two weekly newspapers, Kung Kao Po and The Sunday Examiner. In addition, the Diocesan Audio-Visual Centre produces tapes and films for use in schools and parishes and, overall, the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office acts as an information and public relations channel for the diocese.
The presence of the Protestant community dates back to 1841. About 480,000 Protestant Christians live in Hong Kong. The Protestant Church is made up of over 1300 congregations in more than 50 denominations. Major denominations are Adventists, Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of Christ in China, Methodist, Pentecostal and Salvation Army. With their emphasis on youth work, many congregations have a high proportion of young people. The Protestant churches are deeply involved in education, health care and social welfare. Protestant organisations operate three post-secondary institutions: Chung Chi College at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University and Lingnan University. They run 144 secondary schools, 192 primary schools, 273 kindergartens and 116 nurseries.
The Protestant community operate 16 theological seminaries and Bible institutes, 16 Christian publishing houses and 57 Christian bookshops. They run seven hospitals with 3749 beds, 18 clinics and 59 social service organisations that provide a wide range of social services including 227 community and youth centres, 74 day care centres, 17 children’s homes, 35 homes for the elderly, 106 elderly centres, two schools for the blind and deaf, 47 training centres for the mentally handicapped and 15 camp sites. Five international hotel-type guest houses are managed by the YMCA and YWCA. The church supports emergency relief and development projects in Third World countries.
Two weekly newspapers are published, The Christian Weekly and The Christian Times. Two ecumenical bodies facilitate co-operative work among the Protestant churches in Hong Kong. The older one, dating from 1915, is the Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union. The second co-operative body is the Hong Kong Christian Council, formed in 1954. Major mainline denominations and ecumenical services constitute the membership core of the council, which is committed to building closer relationships among all churches in Hong Kong as well as with churches overseas, and to stimulating local Christians to play an active part in the development of Hong Kong society.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 22,500 recorded members in Hong Kong divided into 33 congregations, doubling the number of members from 10 years earlier. Among these, 5,565 are estimated to be 'active' in the faith.
The LDS Church first sent missionaries to Hong Kong in 1853 but did not establish a headquarters until 1949. In 1996 the Church completed the Hong Kong China Temple in Kowloon. In 2005, the Church dedicated the Church Administration Building Hong Kong.
The geographical administrative area for the China Hong Kong Mission includes all of China. There are missionaries in Macau but as of 2007, there are no LDS Missionaries preaching within mainland China, although there are some service Missionaries.
For some years, a small band of Orthodox Christians kept Orthodoxy alive in Hong Kong; while services with a priest were rare, they continued to live the ancient expression of Eastern Christianity. A small delegation, representing the St. Luke Orthodox Community, approached Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, requesting that the community be given a full-time clergyman, who could serve the needs of the faithful and offer Orthodox Christianity to the local people. With the efforts of the then Bishop Athenagoras (later Metropolitan of Mexico, Central America and Caribbean, with seat in Panama), a systematic plan was developed. Upon the research and advice of the Bishop, the Holy and Sacred Synod of Constantinople founded the new Orthodox Metropolitanate (Archdiocese) of Hong Kong and South East Asia in November 1996. On December 2, 1996, Archmandrite Nikitas Lulias was elected as the first Orthodox Metropolitan of Hong Kong and assigned the ecclesiastical responsibilities of Southeast Asia. On January 12, 1997, the Enthronment of Nikitas Lulias as the first Metropolitan of the OMHKSEA took place. The ceremony was held at the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Luke, Stanley Fort, Hong Kong, with Metropolitan Athenagoras of Panama representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Ten years later, in August 2007, Metropolitan Nikitas was transferred as Metropolitan of Dardanellia and OMHKSEA stayed vacant for a few months. On January 9, 2008, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate took the decision to split the huge area of OMHKSEA, by creating a new Metropolitanate in Singapore. Under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitanate of Hong Kong remained the countries: Popular Republic of China, Taiwan, Philippine Islands, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. With the same decision, Archimandrite Nectarios Tsilis was elected as the New Metropolitan (Archbishop) of OMHKSEA. His ordination took place on January 20, 2008, in the patriarchal St George Holy Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Phanar, Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, and his enthronement is scheduled for March 1, 2008, in the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Luke, Stanley Fort, Hong Kong.
To date, there are over 220.000 Muslims in Hong Kong and the existence of four mosques and an Islamic centre is an acknowledgement of the fast-growing community. Four principal masjids and 07 Madressahs are run by Khatme Nubuwwat Islamic Council Limited are used daily for prayers. Khatme Nubuwwat Islamic Council Limited with its Markiz (head office) in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, is headed by Qari Muhammad Tayyab Qasmi. The oldest is the Shelley Street Masjid on Hong Kong Island, which was built in the 1840s and rebuilt in 1915. The Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre in Nathan Road, opened in 1984, can accommodate about 3.500 worshippers. The Masjid and Islamic Centre at Oi Kwan Road in Wan Chai was opened in September 1981 and can accommodate a congregation of more than 700 worshippers. The Cape Collinson Muslim Cemetery also has a masjid. The Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong co-ordinates religious affairs and manages masajid and Muslim cemeteries in Hong Kong. The constituent bodies of the Trustees are the Islamic Union of Hong Kong, the Pakistan Association, the Indian Muslim Association and the Dawoodi Bohra Association. Charitable work among the Muslim community, including financial aid to the needy, medical care, educational assistance, the provision of an Islamic kindergarten and assistance for the aged, is conducted through various Muslim organisations in Hong Kong. In addition to the established Muslim community, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Indonesian migrant domestic workers, who numbered 123.000 at end 2008.
An estimated 40.000 Hindus call Hong Kong home and are an integral part of the city's vibrant culture. The Hindu temple in Happy Valley is an important community centre for meditation and worship - pujas. Other temples are run by the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON-International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Sai Baba and Chinmaya Mission orders.
There is a Hindu crematorium in Cape Collins.
Like all Gurdwaras, the temple in Wan Chai provides free meals and short-term accommodation to overseas visitors of any faith. The main holy days and festivals observed are the birthdays of Guru Nanak (founder of the faith), Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Guru) and Baisakhi (birthday of all Sikhs). The Sikhs originally came to Hong Kong from Punjab, in Northern India, as part of the British Armed Forces in the 19th century. There are 10.000 Sikhs in Hong Kong.
With a history dating back to the 1840s, Hong Kong’s Jewish community, comprising families from various parts of the world, worships at three main congregations. Daily services are held at the Ohel Leah Synagogue (Orthodox), Sabbath and festival services at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (Reform). Both are located in the same residential complex in Robinson Road, Hong Kong Island. Daily services are also held at the Chabad Lubavitch shul based in the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, Central and in Kehilat Zion - Hechal Ezra (Sephardi) in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The Ohel Leah Synagogue was built in 1901 on land given by Sir Jacob Sassoon and his family and includes a Mikvah (ritual bath). There is also a Jewish Cemetery at Happy Valley, a historical site in Hong Kong. The site adjoining the Ohel Leah Synagogue, now containing a residential complex, also houses the Jewish Community Centre which serves all three congregations. The centre offers its 400 member families and visiting Jewish guests supervised kosher dining and banquet, cultural and recreational facilities as well as a specialist library covering all aspects of Judaica.
There are about 500 Jains in Hong Kong, who immigrated to Hong Kong later than most other Indian groups. They originate mostly from the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Their community grew rapidly during the 1980s. The Jains are most prominent in the diamond trading business. In 1996, members of the community founded a Jain temple, Shree Hong Kong Jain Sangh.
Traditional and religious festivals
There are five major festivals in the Chinese lunar calendar, with the Lunar New Year being the most important. Gifts and visits are exchanged among friends and relatives and children receive lai see, or ‘lucky money’. During the Ching Ming Festival in spring, ancestral graves are visited. In early summer (fifth day of the fifth lunar month), the Tuen Ng Festival is celebrated with dragon boat races and by eating cooked glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Gifts of mooncakes, wine and fruit are exchanged and adults and children go into parks and the countryside at night with colourful lanterns. Chung Yeung is on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, when many visit their ancestors’ graves or hike up mountains in remembrance of an ancient Chinese family’s escape from plague and death by fleeing to a mountain top. Apart from the above traditional festivals, quite a number of important religious festivals, including Good Friday, Easter, Buddha's Birthday and Christmas, have been listed as public holidays. Adherents hold special celebration or memorial ceremonies on these occasions.
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