Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Listen to the Presbyterians

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan on Tuesday issued a "Statement on Justice and Peace," advocating that Taiwanese sovereignty and independence should be the basis for interparty cooperation and negotiation. The statement also said that the quest for justice and peace is the common responsibility of the international community from which Taiwan long has been ostracized in violation of universal principles of justice and peace. The statement ended by calling for the establishment of a new relationship between Taiwan and China, saying that the two nations should recognize each other based on the principles of equality, mutual benefits and peaceful co-existence.

The timing of this statement is aimed at Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who on Tuesday negotiated a three-point cooperation agreement with the People First Party's (PFP) legislative caucus, and it also takes aim at the coming meeting between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and PFP Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

On Tuesday, Hsieh reached an agreement with the PFP under which the two parties will cooperate on legislation of national importance, the Hsieh Cabinet agrees not to propose any "controversial" bills aimed at making a statement and both parties will work together to write cross-strait peace legislation.

The Presbyterian Church is the only one of Taiwan's Christian denominations that is pro-localization. Most of the other denominations arrived in Taiwan together with the Chinese Nationalist Party after 1949. In 1865, the British doctor James L. Maxwell arrived to found the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. He also established the Sinlau Hospital in Tainan. He both saved people and introduced Western medicine to the country.

In 1872, Presbyterian missionary George Mackay arrived in Tamshui from Canada. Mackay first established a clinic, Chieh Yi Guan (偕醫館), in Tamshui. He then formed a school named Oxford College (牛津學堂), and recruited both male and female students. He even married a Taiwanese woman, and both of his daughters also married Taiwanese Presbyterians and put down roots in Taiwan. After his death, his followers relocated and expanded the clinic to Taipei City, and renamed it Mackay Memorial Hospital to commemorate the "son-in-law" of Taiwan who had brought modern education and medicine to the country.

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan fought fiercely against the KMT's authoritarian rule. The atmosphere around Tainan Theological College and Seminary, which was responsible for training new missionaries, became one of fear, as the elderly warned young people not to linger near the school, so as not to be arrested by the Taiwan Military Garrison Command for no reason. The Thai-Peng-Keng Maxwell Memorial Church was even seen as a base for the pro-independence movement.

With such a unique historical background, although Christianity is not the most common religion here, the political concern of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan actually represents the origins of Taiwan awareness.

All through the 1970s, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan resisted political oppression. Following its 1971 "Statement on our National Fate," in which it recommended holding "elections of all representatives to the highest government bodies" and called on the international community to recognize that the people of Taiwan had the right to decide their own future, there were many other statements. In 1975, it published a call for the government to deal with Taiwan's foreign affairs situation and guarantee the livelihood of the people. In 1977 the Church made its declaration on human rights, demanding that Taiwan's future be decided by the people who lived in Taiwan and calling on Taiwan to become a new and independent nation.

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