People are turning to spirituality during the credit crunch, say organizers of a recent Hong Kong book fair, where books on religion were among the most popular - writes Francis Wong.
"Books on religion and philosophy ranked number four on the visitors' buying list," Christine Kwok, who managed a visitor survey at the book fair, told journalists at the conclusion of the event late last month (July 2009). "They come after fiction and novels, literature, and travel books."
The fair drew more than 900,000 visitors, an eight per cent increase over the previous year. About 10,000 of the visitors were from the Chinese mainland, Macau, Taiwan and countries such as Canada and the United States.
"Some scholars analysed that books on souls and spirituality will have a boost under the present economic downturn. They are right." Kwok said.
The Hong Kong Book Fair drew participants from 55 local religious bodies, who accounted for nearly one tenth of the total number of exhibitors. They included 21 Protestant groups, with Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists represented; more than 20 Buddhist organizations; eight Roman Catholic bodies; and several from Islam, Taoism and Confucianism.
Noting the significant presence of religious groups, some Christian leaders urged more interfaith activities at the book fair. "Religious bodies may co-organize a multi-faith forum, to enrich this book fair," Ng Sze Yuen, a Methodist lay leader, was reported as saying by the Catholic Weekly of Hong Kong.
Ng's suggestion gained support from a Catholic priest. "Interfaith activities not only help visitors to know more about the religions in the city, they also help religious followers to deepen their own faith," said the Rev Luke Tsui, chief executive of the Catholic Institute for Religion and Society.
The Hong Kong Book Fair is organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and it stresses a "business to customer" trading model. It drew about 500 exhibitors from 20 countries, selling more than 100,000 book titles.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]