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The Wider Image: Sermons with saline: Hong Kong pastor offers protesters aid, prayers

Text by Karishma Singh, Photos by Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Posted at Nov 19 2019 11:54 AM | Updated as of Nov 19 2019 11:56 AM

HONG KONG - Wearing cross and clerical collar, Hong Kong pastor Alan Keung says he brings God's love to the masses in a different way these days, using saline to wash away tear gas fired at crowds of protesters on tumultuous streets, or helping injured police.

Pastor Alan Keung talks to a young boy after his service at his chapel in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Five months of anti-government demonstrations have pulled Hong Kong residents from all walks of life into the often-violent protests. Keung is among other clergy offering care and prayer to all who need it.

Wearing a black helmet emblazoned with the word "Pastor" in English and Chinese, the 28-year-old is one of a group of volunteer medics helping people scrub from their faces the traces of gas, and bringing relief from its sting.

"My mission is to bring God's love to the crowd," he said. "To let them know that there's a pastor who is willing to be together with all of them."

Amid volleys of tear gas, Keung ran up a pavement in the Chinese-ruled city, offering pedestrians and protesters squirts of saline solution from a large plastic bottle.

Pastor Alan Keung and first aid volunteers walk through an alley in order to avoid road blocks during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

"Sometimes we will even help injured police officers who need our assistance," he said. In July, his group surrounded police officers to shield them from angry passengers after an attack by white-shirted men at a train station.

Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" formula adopted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Keung has been a pastor for seven years and his congregation of about 30 consists mostly of young people at his Christianity Mission, in a neighbourhood in the northwest of the territory.

Floppy hair swept across his forehead and round-framed glasses give Keung a boyish appearance, but he is resolute in offering support at the demonstrations, where he takes hold of protesters' hands to say a short prayer.

"I am not someone who merely stays in the church and talks about humanity, justice and morality, and ignores what's going on at the frontline," he said.

"This is not what I want to do. I want to show my companionship at the frontline and to be in the crowd when I'm needed."
Keung said he had woven into his preaching some lessons he learnt from the protests.

"Don't feel like you're not part of this," he told a recent church gathering, as uniformed children listened wide-eyed. "Every one of you is the future of Hong Kong and the world. Every one of you is involved." (Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Pastor Alan Keung prepares to conduct a service at his chapel in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung stands amongst protesters and bystanders during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung prays with a first aid volunteer who asked Alan to do so during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China November 3, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung covers his face with a gas mask after riot police fired rounds of tear gas during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung pacifies a man arguing with protesters who blocked the road during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung and first aid volunteers gesture that they are not protestors by raising their hands as riot police advance to disperse protesters during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung washes the eyes of a pedestrian who was tear gassed during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung holds his safety helmet as he prepares to visit an anti-government protest site from his chapel in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

Pastor Alan Keung prepares to visit an anti-government protest from his chapel in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters