She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “If we treasure human dignity and value life, we must take action now and make a choice to transform and resist the present forces that deny life and destroy community”.
Lo Sai “Rose” Wu – China, Hong Kong SAR
She works for the Hong Kong Christian Institute (Hkci), and for the Civil Human Rights Front (Chrf).
Rose Wu Lo Sai (54) works in the field of community development. She has brought civil and community concerns to the Church since the 80s. An educator, feminist and Christian social activist, Rose is founder and leader of several NGOs that work for gender equity, social justice, political and civil rights and against poverty. She was convener of the Civil Human Rights Front in 2002-04, an alliance of NGOs instrumental in organizing the rally on 1 July 2003 when over 500,000 people took to the streets to protest against government bureaucracy and the controversial draft National Security Bill. A devoted feminist and Christian social activist, Rose (54) began her community service as an educator.
She was Principal of the Kindergarten at Shum Oi Church (located in Hong Kong) of the Church of Christ in China, actively promoting community care and grassroots community activities of the Church. And as she graduated from Chung Chi College’s Theology Division of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she worked as assistant chaplain at Chung Chi College and fulfilled Student-Ministry duties for two years.
Her active engagement in the local social, civil and political movement was marked by her serving as the first female standing committee member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, an alliance set up shortly after China’s Tiananmen pro-democracy movement in 1989.
Hong Kong in the late 80s was a place where the voices of the common people were weak. Governance was dominated by elites and entrepreneurs and grassroots groups could hardly participate in social and political consultation. Women were marginalized and their chance to be heard was rare. The major challenges before and after the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty were instability in the political, economic and social arenas, and disruption of people’s livelihoods and other civil and political rights.
As early as the mid 80s, Rose was part of a group of theologically trained local Christian women who began the first feminist theology study in Hong Kong. “Here the seeds were planted for what would become the Hong Kong Women Christian Council (HKWCC) three years later in 1988, which, while still an organization composed entirely of volunteers, gave an identity to the Christian women’s movement that was developing in Hong Kong. Rose, a founding member of HKWCC, became the first full-time staff of HKWCC in 1993 and held the post of General Secretary from 1993-1998. It was the period when equal opportunities for women were vigorously fought for. Rose in her capacity as the HKWCC’s General Secretary has played a strategic role in advocating for the legislation for equal inheritance rights to land for New Territories indigenous inhabitants, the establishment of the Hong Kong Women’s Commission and the Women’s Coalition on Equal Opportunities. All of these were landmarks of the local women’s movement.
A fervent women’s rights advocate, Rose never shies of her support and solidarity with sex workers and other sexual minority groups whose basic human rights have seriously been denied by society. This stance of hers has been the target of fierce criticism by some church members. As a faithful Christian, it has been hard for her to endure alienation from the Church and other believers, and to be marginalized and treated as a scourge of the Church.
“It is difficult to advocate the rights of these people in Hong Kong and Asia because they pose threats to traditional beliefs and customs about what constitutes a family in Asia and are a danger to men’s privileged position in society,”said Rose in her article, Human Rights is a Matter of Choice, in 2001.
“In Hong Kong, the most outspoken groups which promote prejudice and a discriminatory attitude towards sex workers and sexual minorities are conservative Christians who see their action as a way to justify their religious values on sex and the family. “This attitude again reflects the need to view human rights as a universal value in our society, for no one’s rights should be sacrificed under the name of religion, the so-called normal family or social morality,” Rose added. The soft spoken woman who often wears a warm and welcoming smile listens attentively and is always ready to speak her mind, which is reflective, contemplating, uncompromising and critical of the injustice mainstream ideology and behaviors, including the institutional Church. In spite of criticisms and marginalization by the institutional Church, Rose stands firm with her commitment to seeing social justices, gender equity and basic human rights respected and honored. In her book “A Dissenting Church”, published in 2003, Rose highlights the tensions between an institutional Church seeking survival and a prophetic Church confronting society’s injustices. She evidently has chosen to position herself in a prophetic church and to have her voice heard.
Rose is a prolific writer. She contributes to different Christian publications on a variety of issues. A Dissenting Church is a collection of Rose’s articles and speeches. She is also the author of Liberating the Church from Fear: The Story of Hong Kong’s Sexual Minorities. Rose translates her thoughts into words and action. Since 2000, she has been working as Director of the Hong Kong Christian Institute (HKCI), a Christian organization active in social and political issues. Among others, HKCI has developed alternative education programs that seek to enable young people in Hong Kong to be active participants in civil society. With her theological training, Rose has also created a new curriculum on social ministry for lay people based on the principle of praxis and reflection.
Rose always stands at the forefront of social justice movement. With her firm Christian belief and social vision, she upholds the principles of diversity, openness, acceptance, good governance, social justice, respect for basic human rights and love. She is emphatic that different social and political movements are and should work as an organic and integrated whole. While promoting the cooperation of frontline Christian groups to respond to social issues, Rose earnestly participates in re-building post -97 identity of Hong Kong people by forging networks of civic organizations in promoting human rights and monitoring of other social and political issues. The July First Link and the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) were established in this regard. They have not only acted as platforms for consultation and dialogue among groups and people with different opinions and visions, but also a space where people could work together for a shared and agreed goal. The CHRF was formed as a response to the Hong Kong Government’s controversial draft national security legislation and political development in 2002-03. The alliance, with Rose as convener for 2002-04, was instrumental in organizing the historic mass rallies in 2003 and 2004 that protest against the government’s hasty manner in pushing the draft bill.
Since the mass rallies in 2003 and 2004, more people have a better understanding of their civic power, which could force the government to change. The capacity of marginalized and deprived communities, in particular women, sex workers and homosexual groups, has also been much strengthened with access to more resources. The Ecumenical community at large has benefited from Rose’s vocal expression for reform and reflection within the Church locally and in the region.
During and after the Afghanistan, 9.11 and Iraqi crisis, Rose worked at raising awareness and understanding of the so-called “war on terrorism. She appealed for love and hope in the place of terror, and calls for interreligious cooperation to support social transformation which starts from and goes beyond personal salvation, and salvation of different faiths.
The following prayer by Rose was to conclude an interfaith service on March 16, 2003, for the continuation of peace in Iraq – four days before the United States and Britain launched an attack against the country:
God of different names,
We thank you for the many splendored varieties of your beautiful Creation.
We thank you for the many ways you have expressed yourself in human history.
Forgive our destruction of your Creation,
Our violence toward each other.
We bring before you the disunity of today’s world,
The suffering of your broken body.
Today we remember before you the country of Iraq …
an ancient land of the Middle East,
realm of the two rivers,
birthplace of great cities and civilizations …
which is now facing the horror of war.
We stand in solidarity …
Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians as well as those of other faiths …
to pray for all government leaders to remember
The tragic loss of life and the suffering that war brings,
The hatred, the greed,
and the injustice that war provokes,
The right of the Iraqi people to determine their own future.
Grant to all and to our leaders
the will for peace and justice.
Take away our fear and insecurity.
To you, God of love,
To you, God of hope,
we weave our dreams;
To you, God of justice,
we commit ourselves;
For you are the God of different names.
Let us open our hearts to embrace our difference
As God embraces all as one human family.
(Read all on 1000peacewomen).