TIRF Opened to Witness God’s Audacity to Suffer as the Light in Darkness


Taiwan Church News

3733 Edition

Sept 11th ~ 17th, 2023

Weekly Topic

TIRF Opened to Witness God’s Audacity to Suffer as the Light in Darkness

Reported by Lin Yi-ying from Taipei
Translated by Peter Wolfe

Co-organized by the Legislative Yuan, ChinaAid, the Secretariat of IRF Summit, and the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), the “Taiwan International Religious Freedom Summit” (TIRF) was held at the Grand Hotel on September 7th and 8th. In his opening speech, Rev Chen Hsin-liang, general secretary of the PCT, reported the martial law backgrounds of the KMT’s authoritarian rule. The Presbyterian Church was monitored, the weekly newspaper of “Taiwan Church News” was confiscated, and much more PCT pastors were arrested and imprisoned. However, even suppressed by the KMT regime, the PCT still insists to take care of the poor, the exploited and the vulnerable and the future of Taiwan up to date.

Rev Chen Hsin-liang indicated that in 1977, the PCT delivered the “A Declaration on Human Rights” out of faith, calling the KMT government to take effective measures to make Taiwan a new and independent country. However, in order to prevent the PCT from continuing to print and proclaim “A Declaration on Human Rights”, the KMT government ordered intelligence police to spy on printing plants across Taiwan. As a result, the PCT churches was kept in tight surveillance, the pastor’s sermons and the believers’ words and deeds were all closely monitored during Sunday services. “The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has not lost its faith in such a high-pressure control!”, remarked Rev Chen Hsin-liang. On the contrary, the PCT is even more convinced that men have the image of God and will pursue their dignities and fight for the freedom and democracy, he said.

At the opening ceremony, Vice President Mr Lai Ching-te said that today Taiwan has achieved impressive achievements of democracy, freedom, and openness because of the people’s courageous struggle and international assistance. Therefore, Taiwan has a responsibility to feedback the international community, i.e., to stand firmly with religious and human rights leaders from democratic countries, and do its best to promote international peace. He also pointed out that Taiwan’s religious freedom has been recognized world-wide: for example, the British news magazine, The Economist, ranked Taiwan as the top one Asian country in its democracy index. The American NGO, Freedom House, rated Taiwan’s freedom index as high as 94 points, ranking the second in Asia. In its evaluation of religious freedom, Freedom House gave Taiwan a full-score, VP Lai Ching-te proudly praised.

Mr You Si-kun, president of the Legislative Yuan and one of the three conveners of the TIRF summit, quoted a 2014 Pew Research report from the United States, affirming that Taiwan ranks second in religious diversity globally. All religions in Taiwan respect each other and live in harmony, making good-will wishes for the people and praying for a better Taiwan are common characteristics of the religions in Taiwan, Mr You said.

Mr Sam Brownback, co-convener of the TIRF Summit, said that now is Taiwan’s moment. Many people in the world are arrested and persecuted by their governments, simply because of their religious beliefs. According to the United Nations Charter, religious freedom is a basic human being, Mr Brownback stressed, the government has the responsibility to protect the religious rights of the people as a basic human rights, and a free and democratic Taiwan can serve as an influential model for the Indo-Pacific region.

(Photo/Lin Yi-ying)

Ms Katrina Lantos Swett, co-convener of the TIRF Summit, said that the Dunmu Hall of the Grand Hotel was once the venue for the Tangwei movement to launch the Democratic Progressive Party (DDP). The fact the TIRF Summit held in Taiwan also symbolizes that everyone present agrees that Taiwan is on the very front-line to confront the authoritarian attacks and invasions from China, Ms Swett said. China is currently the biggest threat to religious freedom in the world, because China not only arbitrarily persecutes ethnic minorities, persistently suppresses people’s religious beliefs, but also intentionally destroys universal values such as freedom and democracy, and proves itself as an absolutely iron-curtain country to eliminate any basic human rights, she said.

Rev Bob Fu, founder of the ChinaAid, remarked that China and Afghanistan are both authoritarian regimes, and the problem of religious persecution within these two countries is becoming more and more serious. He called on everyone to stand up for the persecuted and reach out to the suffered, especially to provide effective rescue and resources for the most vulnerable women and children.

At the National Prayer Breakfast on the morning on September 8th, Rev Zheng Yang-en, delivered a sermon entitled “The God Who is Audacious to Suffer”, emphasizing that everyone is created in the image of God, and when a person suffers, it is God who suffers. Only when light can shine into the dark, can the evil be expelled, he said.

He also reminded the audience about the story of Yi-Kong Presbyterian Church, which was the original site of the heinous murder of Mr Lin Yi-hsiong’s dear mother and two lovely twin-daughters in 1980. Later, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan transformed the criminal-site into a church to encourage Taiwan society to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who is audacious to suffer and sacrifice for truth and justice, so that God’s light can shine upon us, Rev Zeng concluded.