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Student of the Month: Wing Yin Li

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Wing Yin Li (she/her) is a Master of Divinity candidate (’22) at Princeton Theological Seminary. She loves pour-over coffee and indie folk music. After obtaining her undergraduate master’s degree in philosophy and theology – her all-time favorite subjects – at the University of Edinburgh (’16), she spent two years in international student ministry in the UK. In 2019, when she was working as a youth minister in Hong Kong, the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement, also known as the 2019 Hong Kong Protests, broke out. The Hong Kong protests challenged her perception of theology and prompted her to rethink the relationship between theology and society.

What has been most important for you to learn in your studies?

Reading James Cone’s theology has surely been one of those pivotal moments in my studies. It powerfully unveils the white (colonial) epistemological framework that has long been in play in theology, defining not only the scope and content but also the authenticity and orthodoxy of theology. As I read how Cone has exposed the particularity and narrowness of white theological expressions and challenged the use of “white tools, i.e., knowledge of the language and thought of white people” in doing theology, my understanding of theology has been greatly widened and liberated.

What is your experience attending this year’s PANAAWTM annual conference?

It was my second time attending PANAAWTM annual conference, and I enjoyed it a lot! It was casual, fun, and educational. I appreciate that PANAAWTM has created such a platform for Asian women coming from different cultures and walks of life to support and learn from one another in theology and ministry. Cross-racial solidarity is definitely needed for all of us at times like these. For this reason, I especially like the friendly and inclusive ambience of the conference where we do not feel like we need to compete with one another in order to be heard but everyone is encouraged to freely share their stories and insight. Also, it heartens me to see that the knowledge and wisdom of women are being passed on from one generation to another, strengthening the community as we continue to be faithful witnesses to the grace of God.

As an international student, what are your challenges?

Having been an international student (in the UK and the US) for almost 7 years now, I struggle with my cultural identity. While I have gradually become proficient in English and adapted well to living in the UK or the US, I have not yet developed a sense of belonging to the local cultures. However, every time I go back to Hong Kong to visit my friends and family, I also experience a reverse-cultural shock. And I find it hard to fully relate to the culture too, even though it was my native culture. It frustrates me even more to realize that I am slowly losing my ability to speak and write Chinese fluently. Words of my mother tongue often escape me, and more and more, I fail to remember those combinations of strokes in traditional Chinese. Being aware that I am becoming a stranger to my own culture, I wonder, in what ways should I understand and ground my identity as a HongKonger, an identity that I am proud of but often strikes me as foreign?

What do you plan to do after graduation?

After graduation, I will be working as a part-time pastoral associate at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Ewing, New Jersey, and at the same time applying for PhD programs.

I am interested in continuing further study in theology, especially in regard to the apocalyptic and theology of resistance. In the long run, I hope my research can provide a biblically-based theological framework for resistance that can support the social justice work of the churches across the world, especially in my hometown Hong Kong.

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