Christ calls, Asians respond

Hong Kong

A karate trainer's journey of faith in Hong Kong

By Maria Fung, Hong Kong

March 02, 2022 03:54 AM

The situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and suppression of democracy led Eddie Lo to the Catholic Church

A karate trainer's journey of faith in Hong Kong

Eddie Lo gives karate instructions to students at his training center in Hong Kong in 2019. (Photo supplied)  

Eddie Lo grew up in a religionless Chinese family and never considered practicing a religion despite his schooling under Catholic priests and brothers. But the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong's democracy struggle helped him change.

The 55-year-old professional karate trainer says "the seed of faith” he received at Hong Kong's St. Antony's Primary School, run by the Salesians, has matured after four decades. 

He is now a catechumen preparing to be baptized Ignatius Lo on Easter Saturday in St. Patrick’s Parish in Lok Fu under Hong Kong Diocese.

Lo is among some 1,550 adults undergoing catechumen classes in 52 parishes and territories of the diocese, readying themselves to be baptized this Easter season.

Each year several thousand adults join Hong Kong Diocese. During Easter 2019, before the pandemic hit, some 2,800 adults were baptized. The number of adult baptisms has dwindled since then.

Lo grew up in a traditional family “with Dad and Mum following Confucius thinking but without any religion,” he recalled. He followed no religion until a year ago.

Eddie Lo stands in front of a grotto in St. Patrick’s Parish in Hong Kong. (Photo supplied)

Independent thinking

The isolation of the pandemic restrictions and the chaos of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy campaign guided him to the Catholic Church, he says.

As a martial arts trainer, his focus was on physical energy and techniques to control mind and body. But social disruption since 2019 as well as the pandemic made him “think and feel differently, especially with my students.” 

Lo recalls that he was “harsh and tough” with his students to help them win competitions and gain recognition.

“But after what happened in Hong Kong, I began to appreciate young people with independent thinking and changed the way I teach them,” he says.

Young university students have been spearheading the pro-democracy movement with thousands taking to the streets protesting what they called their shrinking freedoms. It continued until the Chinese government suppressed protests with a sweeping new security law in June 2020.

As Covid-19 lockdowns and isolation continued, Lo wanted a change. He began to think about the meaning and purpose of life and even tried new things like making bread and practicing iaido, a Japanese martial art.

"At the same time, I wanted someone to guide me for the future. I began to think that I needed more mental support and someone to rely on,” he says.

That was when a few karate friends introduced him to the Catholic Church. After discussing the Catholic faith with them, he approached catechist Rebecca Yeung of St. Patrick's Parish. He also wanted to know about the possible limitations Catholicism would cause to his social life. 

Eddie Lo stands in front of the Marian grotto in St. Patrick’s Parish in Hong Kong. (Photo supplied)

Yeung explained the need to attend the weekly catechism classes, which began each year-end and continued until the following Easter season. She also spoke about the need for Sunday obligations.

Changes began to happen after Lo joined the catechism class and started going to Masses.

"I wanted to rely on God now, whereas others relied on me earlier," Lo says. “From a person who used to give answers, I have now become one who would listen first. This helps me release my own negative emotions too. I feel more relaxed. I have developed a relationship with God. I pray as if talking to Him.” 

We are not close friends. We know each other by discussing martial arts on the internet. By the will of God and faith, our paths crossed

His younger sister May Lo, who became a Protestant Christian after her schooling, says that changes in him are visible now. “He doesn’t get angry on certain occasions, which he certainly would before. Eddie knows it is because of faith,” she says.

Taking part in Mass has become easier after catechism classes explained to him the meaning of its structure and rubrics.

Karate friend Dominic Chan became Lo's godfather by chance. He saw a small prayer posted in the 'prayer corner’ of Lo’s social media page and asked if he was a believer in God. That conversation led Lo to share his faith story with Chan and invite him to be his godfather.

“We are not close friends. We know each other by discussing martial arts on the internet. By the will of God and faith, our paths crossed,” Chan says.

Chan says that in a utilitarian society like Hong Kong companions are necessary to support each other to overcome the challenges of Catholic life.

“Life is too fast in Hong Kong. A Catholic’s Sunday obligation might clash with his career or social life. That is one challenge,” he says.

“The authentic Christian way of life might turn out to be frustrating sometimes” in a highly commercialized social situation, he adds.

Hong Kong has some 7.5 million people, roughly 10 percent of whom are Christians, with Catholics numbering 401,000.

Moving forward, Lo would “like to be a better Eddie, loving and treating others better by seeing things from others’ shoes.” He would like to “give the message of God to others through conversations, especially with family members.” 

Yeung and Chan say they are looking forward to Easter week to see their friend baptized.

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