Provided by OMHKSEA, March 31, 2003, through the Orthodox Christian News Service
First Orthodox Response to Atypical Pneumonia Outbreak

March 31, 2003 (OMHKSEA) -- On Sunday, 30th March, 2003, Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia led Morning Prayers with other Christian leaders in Hong Kong on the worldwide outbreak of Atypical Pneumonia (technically known as SARS/Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or CVP/Coronavirus Pneumonia).

Focusing on the Gospel text Mark 5: 36, wherein Christ said "Don't be afraid, just believe", Metropolitan Nikitas asked the Christians gathered for the morning service to let their faith overcome their fear.

The Orthodox, together with Christians of other denominations, are a minority in this East Asian metropolis.  They have, however, been among the earliest and most pro-active groups to mobilize and respond to the Pneumonia crisis.

Early Sunday morning at Edinburgh Place in the heart of downtown Hongkong, with spectacular Victoria Harbor and Hongkong's gleaming skyscrapers as a backdrop, Metropolitan Nikitas and Catholic, Anglican and Protestant leaders took turns to pray for God's healing grace on the ills of the city and the world. 

Many worshippers turned up wearing face masks.  The service attracted widespread attention from local television, radio and printed media.

A copy of Metropolitan Nikitas' Prayer is sent herewith as an Attachment, together with photographs of the service.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong, the Most Revd. Joseph Zen, prayed for the strengthening of the people of God and unity of all people to care for the community in the face of adversity.

The Anglican Archbishop of Hong Kong, the Most Revd. Peter Kwong, prayed for God's healing and comfort for afflicted people.

The Chairman of Hong Kong's Council of Churches, the Revd. Dr. Li Ping-kwong, who is president of the Methodist Church in Hong Kong, also prayed for world peace and forgiveness and the restoration of harmony to the Middle East and to the world.

Faith overcomes fear

Let us pray.

O Lord our God, we gather on this day as the representatives of Your people, as Moses and the Prophets of old came before You, during the times of pestilence, famine and distress.  We now come bowing both our knees and our hearts and ask that you hear our prayer and petitions, as we are faced with challenges and times of confusion, and seek an answer to the multitude of woes which plague our world.  We have sinned against You and our fellow man, and as the Prophet King David we ask that You overlook our transgressions and remove our sins from us, for You are a merciful God Who seeks not our destruction, but that we should repent and be saved.  Take away the evil and malice which rest in our hearts, and create a clean and new spirit within us.  Do not allow the temptations of fear to abide there, but rather allow Faith, Hope and Love to have their place in us, so we may approach You with a boldness of heart and confidence.

In these days of holy Lent, when all people now look for answers to the difficulties we have brought upon ourselves, we ask that You open the arms of Your love and receive us as You did the Prodigal Son.  Because of Your infinite love, You would not allow that he be lost in the errors of his sin - so, likewise, raise us up and restore us, as we have no other hope but You.  Give strength to those who are suffering, wisdom to those who labour in assisting the ill,  and hope to all of us - for You alone can heal and restore fallen humanity.  Let us be strong, confident and assured, so we may walk the path of life with faith, light and hope.

These things we ask in Your Name.