“Where did you find these guys?” remarked the team captain of the ex-pro HK soccer player. My seminary team was playing a team of older ex-pro HK soccer players. In order to try to beat them, we have enlisted a few “foreign players.” These are recreational players from Africa who sought asylum in Hong Kong and now they work odd jobs while getting social services and living in poor housing. One of them goes to my Hong Kong home church. The ex-pro continued to say, “In my prime, I don’t think we’ve played against players of this physicality. They’re unstoppable.”
I dug a bit deeper into the situation. My African friend who attended my church told me that he and his friend regularly play against the local pro teams in practice games. He told me that the African recreational team regularly beats teams from the HK Premier League, sometimes by quite a large margin, including the renowned South China Football Club and the previous champion Tin Sui Wai Pegasus. Instead of signing these African players to contracts, the local teams got angry and said that they didn’t want to practice with this group any more. If they were signed, soon enough, the Hong Kong All-Star soccer team would be mostly black payers as they compete internationally. This just isn’t very Hong Kong. The problem is not whether these players had the skill level. They do. They’re no less human and even more skilled than the local pros. Their only fault is their skin color
When looking at the situation, we can clearly see that a lot more racial prejudices still exist in a multicultural society. The fact is, everyone has prejudice on some issue or another. Let’s turn to the church. Does the church do better? In Hong Kong, I suggest that we have a long way to go. The expat churches become a good place to study this situation because English is the best means to reach these Africans. When we look at the English-speaking “large” churches, not many of them are reaching this group. In some ways, the church has become the microcosm of that society. I think there may be many answers to the question, “Why?” but we need to ask that question.
Now, let’s turn to the US. I suggest that our diversity in the US also does not allow all the ethnic groups to integrate into our churches. Many large congregations only contain token minorities while minorities continue to have their own churches. Once again, with such large churches where they CAN potentially fit in, why are they preferring to have their own churches? I believe the “why” question needs exploring.
My interest in racial relations actually stemmed from my PhD study on slavery. It is quite PC to talk about racial equality these days. What in fact is the basis for Christian view of equality? It comes from Gen. 1.27 where God created the entire human race in his divine image, both male and female. More importantly, beyond human dignity, Matthew 28.18-20 shows the mission perspective. “All” people can potentially become Christian disciples, but is that fact reflected in our congregation make up? Why and why not?