The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) conducted a Brunnen workshop on the theme “From International Isolation to Witnessing for National Dignity and Human Rights” during the 11th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly on 5 September. Sounding a clarion call for the ecumenical movement to take resolute action for a just and participatory society in Taiwan, three PCT delegates addressed topics such as China’s ongoing role in international isolation of Taiwan, areas in which PCT has contributed to the world, and an indigenous perspective emphasizing respect for the culture and mission of the indigenous community in Taiwan.
The first presenter, Rev. Dr Kong-hi Lo, a professor at Tainan Theological College, spoke about Taiwanese hardships arising from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s aggression, and that the “One China Policy” is a flagrant disrespect of human rights in Taiwan. Trapped and unjustly isolated from international circles, Taiwan’s attempts to build diplomatic relations with other countries, and to join international institutions such as World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations (UN) have been consistently thwarted by China. As a result, a mere 14 countries have maintained its relationships with Taiwan.
Subsequently, Umav Ispalakan, a delegate from indigenous community, recounted a common childhood story of teachers persuading indigenous children to leave their tribes to go to the city for better educational opportunities. As a community which constitutes two percent of Taiwan’s population of over 23 million, she shared that many young indigenous people have similar stories of suffering and oppression, such as not being allowed to speak their dialect, or register their indigenous names in the national identification system. Having faced discrimination, exploitation, and loss of land rights, witnessing Taiwan President Tsai Ing Wen as the first leader to make a formal apology to the indigenous peoples was a milestone, and they have continued the struggle for preservation of their cultural heritage. As part of its indigenous mission, PCT is working towards preserving the dialects of indigenous communities by translating the Bible into their language.
Finally, Yu-en Wang, a delegate who has been actively involved in CWM’s Asia Youth Initiatives (AYI) spoke passionately about Taiwan’s ability to contribute to movements of democracy and equality in regional and even international contexts. He spoke about the youth-led Taiwan Sunflower Movement (2014) and Hong Kong Umbrella Movement where they stood up to political pressure and requested for transparency in elections, as well as being a strong support during the 2019 Hong Kong Anti-Extradition protests where they rendered aid in secret for casualties and protesters by supplying helmets, respiratory masks, medical care and even shelter and housing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PCT raised NT$1.4-million donating masks to partner churches and supported global allies with medical goods such as ventilators, infrared thermometers and personal protective equipment. Within a short time, Taiwan raised 4.2 million Euros (NT$129 million) of funding in aid of Ukraine, while PCT raised NT$7.5 million. In addition, PCT manufactured and delivered 154 medical beds to Kiev on 24 August, Ukraine’s National Day.
The common thread running through the PCT’s presentations was that of resilient hope, concrete action, and an appeal for ecumenical action in standing up against authoritarian regimes and to stand for the oppressed in achieving peace and justice for all. During the Q&A session, they received encouragement from workshop participants and partners, as well as fielded questions from about the repercussions of speaking up strongly against China before the closing prayer by the PCT General Secretary Rev. Tan Hsih Liang.
The CWM has been working with the PCT’s Taiwan Ecumenical Forum (TEF) together with World Communion Reformed Churches (WCRC). The General Secretary Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, has been serving the TEF as its co-convenor together with Rev. Chris Ferguson, former General Secretary of the WCRC. In the contest of rising neo-cold war and various conflicts, TEF, in collaboration with the CWM, WCRC and other ecumenical partners advocates for peace and justice not only in Taiwan but also in the other parts of Asia region.