Following is the speech by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at the Grand Opening Celebration of the International Christian School on February 19, 2008:
Reverend Young, Mr Norton, brothers and sisters in Christ, ladies and gentlemen,
I and my wife are absolutely delighted to join you here today for the official opening of the International Christian School (ICS).
Establishment of ICS
In the last few years, many of my friends have been closely involved in your ministry and all of them have applied themselves very fully to making this vision into reality.
Today, we see before our eyes the fine buildings of ICS. Brilliant architecture. First-class designs. But, much more importantly, the efforts which bear fruit today represent a home which will house many generations of young people as they receive Christian education in ICS.
I do believe that Christian education is invaluable. My wife and I came to know the Lord when we went to the University of Hong Kong because some Evangelical Christians befriended us and took us to join the Christian fellowship. My elder daughter, Rachel, went to Christian schools to complete her primary and junior secondary education.
Christian education has many virtues:
*Our children are taught to be “the light of the world”, to be “in the world, but not of the world”.
*In an era of lax moral attitudes, Christian education helps preserve their minds and hearts like “the salt of the earth”.
*And once they have been taught to appreciate that all creation emanates from “the Word who was made flesh”, they will understand the importance of doing a responsible job in helping to manage society and spreading the gospel of salvation to the ends of the world.
In the last 20 to 30 years, international education has become a much sought-after product or service among Hong Kong families. Hong Kong parents pay literally millions to buy these debentures.
The Hong Kong SAR Government wants to support international education. We provide land grants. We provide capital grants. We want Hong Kong to be international. Now, with the well-established institution of ICS, Hong Kong parents have a superior choice because this is the place where our children can get sanctified.
So I hold very high hopes for the generations of young graduates who will be groomed by ICS. But I do believe that this is a school not just for Hong Kong. It is a Christian school whose influence will extend beyond the boundaries of our small region to the rest of Asia, of Mainland China and to the ends of the world. Let me explain.
I notice that your motto for ICS carries three messages:
*Instruction for Life;
*Commitment to Christ; and
*Service to the Community.
With the same three initials I would like to share with you a somewhat broader perspective.
*I for “International”;
*C for “China”; and
*S for “Services”.
I for ‘International’
First, about the international character of this place. Hong Kong is a very international metropolis. We are the busiest international airport in Asia in terms of air cargo. In 2006, the Hong Kong stock market raised more money in IPOs (initial public offerings) than any location in Asia. We were just second to London and ahead of New York. For 14 years in a row, Hong Kong has been ranked by the US Heritage Foundation as the freest economy on earth.
On the one hand, we are thankful that Hong Kong has all these international attributes. But on the other, what God has bestowed on Hong Kong we should put to good use. So for an institution like ICS, our horizon should go beyond Hong Kong.
C for ‘China’
This brings me to C for “China”. For several decades after World War II, Hong Kong was China’s window to the world. Because Hong Kong remains a beacon of freedom and a free port, China and the world could exchange goods through Hong Kong.
But since 1978 with the “Four Modernisations” and the “Open Door Policy”, the Mainland of China is now also much more international. The “Open Door Policy” has brought a lot of prosperity to China and the Chinese people. Today, China’s GDP ranked fourth in the world, just after Germany. I think there is a good chance that in a few years’ time we will overtake the Germans. If we sustain growth, one day, we may become the largest economy on earth.
But riches and good fortunes aside, with the influx of new capital and new ideas into the Mainland of China -- prosperity brings new problems. The hearts of the Chinese people need the gospel of salvation ever more than before. And I do believe that here in ICS and in Hong Kong, we should pray that the church in the Mainland of China would help build a harmonious society and can spread the gospel to all the provinces of our motherland.
S for ‘Services’
This brings me to S for “Services”. Here in Hong Kong, over 90 per cent of our GDP comprise service industries. We are excellent at producing professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers, financiers, and are also very good at creating new hotels and providing excellent services in that regard. I have every confidence that in the decades to come, ICS will produce many young professionals for Hong Kong to help sustain our growth.
But the modern economy does not just comprise such professional services. With advancements in community life and social development, we need other services to enrich and strengthen the fabric of our society, like Christian education and counselling. And I do believe that in Hong Kong, we, the Government, and NGOs must work together to strengthen the moral and ethical fabric of society. The establishment of ICS is a good case in point.
I firmly believe that the very unique model of international Christian education you provide here would enrich the experience of Hong Kong’s development. And in decades beyond today -- your official opening, your counterparts in the Mainland of China and in other parts of Asia can come and draw on the fountain which is very richly blessed by the Lord here in ICS.
Today, in sharing my thoughts with you, I have ranged beyond Hong Kong because my portfolio covers Mainland affairs. But much more importantly, since my wife and I came to know the Lord in 1976, we have seen China’s growth and opening up. I believe that the Lord is giving the people of China a second opportunity to come to know Him. An establishment such as ICS encourages me.
I have talked a lot about your motto and my interpretation of your three missions. I should also share with you a verse in the Bible which has been my motto for life in the last 30 years.
Proverbs Chapter 16 verse 9: “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
I am sure that for many generations to come, the Lord will guide ICS and your students closely as you embark on your new journey. The Lord be with you. Thank you.
ENDS/Tuesday, February 19, 2008