Interview—Issue 18 (August, 2015)
Angela Wong graduated with a B.A. programme (Major in Theology) and B.D. (Hon.) programme from Chung Chi Theology Division. She also completed and was awarded her Ph.D. with the University of Chicago. She was a teacher in our School, and currently the Associate Professor of the Department of the Cultural and Religious Studies.
Theology and Society
Although Angela Wong currently concentrates on research on culture, gender and religious studies, she was previously involved with Theology. During her years in Secondary School, she frequently participated in the various services organized by the S.K.H. Light. At that time, the motto of the church was “Care for the Society”, which she wholeheartedly supported as this was what she values and believes in. She claims, “I believe that the Church has the capacity to change society drastically. And through my Theology degree, I was given the opportunity to lead numerous church activities.” Later on, she joined a group that strongly encourages religious reflection and care for the society. The group became an organization for a local movement and within the group, she served the community faithfully and diligently. She says, “There is a close relationship between faith and society. Therefore, caring for the poor and needy should be done through the means of theological education.” When she was in her third year of her University program, she did her internship on a full time basis with the Industrial Committee, where no students had gone before.
Besides her involvement in social service, Angela was also active in social movements. She participated in discussions ranging from social problems to student movements. “The conflict was between radical students and conservative students. On one occasion, there was a fierce debate on the imprisonment of students who were involved in social movement.”
Feminism and Theology
Why women in swimming suits are the ideal marketing tool for bottled water? Why is the body of a woman the focus point in a beauty pageant? These are a few of the questions she used to ponder after Liu Po-Chuen impressed upon her to think critically about the oppression of women in our society.
Feminist Theology emphasizes women’s dignity and proclaims that women share the same image of God as men. In our social structure, female was never on the same status as male. Angela became zealous and is passionate in her pursuit researching topics on women, she embarks on research about women, theology, and biblical interpretation. She is grateful to have received three research grants to work on the study of relationship between women, religion and families. In 1995, while I was teaching Feminist Theology and Practical Theology at Divinity School, I was also writing my doctoral dissertation on Asian Theology and Women's stories in Hong Kong with the University of Chicago. To this day, she continues on her quest to understand society and at its core, feminism and theology.
Potholes in our Society
As a feminist advocate, she is concerned about the way people call her. “I prefer to be recognized as ‘Angela’ or ‘Ms. Wai Ching’ instead of ‘Mrs. Lai’”. She understands that being a wife of Mr. Lai is one of her identities. Therefore, she would never force other to call her by her preferred address. “One of the basic principles of feminism is not to force others to follow your rules, but to let others develop themselves in their own ways.”
Previously, Angela considered it a waste of opportunity when women who had attained higher education chose to stay at home as full time home-makers. Later, she realized that everyone is only trying to find their place in the society. It is not necessary that every woman goes to work, especially when that is not their purpose in the first place.
While she has accepted their choices, she has yet to question the traditional and customary practice of women. She remarks, “In a wedding ceremony, a father hands his daughter to another man. Whenever I see this, I cringe inside.” A woman is neither inferior nor an auxiliary product of man. As a result, she decided on her wedding ceremony, to show impartiality for both genders, she got her parents as well as her in-laws to-be to march alongside with her to the altar. She affirms, “obedience and love have nothing to do with one’s gender. All in all, conflicts are inevitable in every family, and the answer to that must be mutual respect.”
In Solidarity with the Weak
Angela, like most Hong Kongers of her time, was born to parents in the working class. They received low income and struggled like everyone else for survival. She recalls, “my father would always tell me about the strenuous work conditions at work.” Therefore, she encourages people to understand the conditions of workers through different ways other than the media. Workers are not mere machines, and they should not be treated as such. They should know their rights and fight for them valiantly when they are not respected.
She found her life companion, Lai Chi Tim, in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “He is a quiet and serious man, but when it comes to some theories or issues, he can be ebullient in our mini debates. I appreciate his attitude towards scholarship and research.” Angela
describes, “He is an observer and I am a participant; he cares about the overall event and situation, while I care about the people involved.
The Divinity School and me
“The School was in financial crisis when I was studying here,” Angela recalls. “The situation has improved with the efforts of Rev. Lo and the rest of the colleagues. More teachers have been employed and more students are admitted, and there can be more theological discussions.” She still remembers these words of Dr Shen vividly, “Theological education is not only for today's church, but also the foundation for tomorrow’s Church.” She hopes that Divinity School will keep training more students to be broad-minded, think theology critically, and be persistent in their struggle for social justice. She concludes, “there are thousands and thousands of conflicts in society today, be it gender equality, democratic rights, or the mainland-Hong Kong relations; they can be avoided with just understanding and mutual respect. The School must be the one to build a bridge over troubled waters, but first and foremost, the church needs improvement.”
Written by: Li Kwong Ping
Polished by: Justin C.T. Chiu