Taiwan Church News
July 26~August 1, 2010
Aborigine leaders speak out on challenges facing their churches
Reported by Lin Yi-ying
Written by Lydia Ma
“The greatest problem we’re facing when it comes to evangelism is population loss. Our youths are moving to urban areas en masse in search for employment. That’s why we must work harder toward building churches in urban areas to help Aborigine Christians come back to church. That’s our goal,” said Taroko Presbytery General Secretary Rev. Nangan Tadaw.
Taroko Presbytery serves Taroko Aborigines living in Hualien County, but many Aborigines have moved to urban places such as Hualien City, Tamsui Township in Taipei, Taoyuan, Jungli, Hsinchu, and Taichung in recent years. The presbytery currently has one “city church” in Hualien City, but it hopes to open another city church in Hualien City next year, said Rev. Nangan Tadaw.
He pointed out that starting an Aborigine church in a city required a lot of financial offerings and prayers. But he also reported that his presbytery continued to struggle with preserving mother languages, providing pastoral salaries, providing adequate spiritual training for church members and lack of employment opportunities for Aborigines near Aborigine reservations.
To help Taroko Aborigines survive, the presbytery created its very own “Production Development Department”, which has facilitated the marketing of produce and crafts made from recycled materials produced by Aborigines. The presbytery will also partner with Hualien County in the near future to provide training for Aborigines interested in become tour guides.
These concerted efforts are all geared at alleviating the high rate of unemployment among Aborigines living in reservations, which has prompted many to immigrate to urban areas in search for survival. Unfortunately, many Aborigines also stop attending church once they move away from home.
According to PCT Indigenous Ministry Committee Secretary Rev. Omi Wilang, about one-third of Aborigines leave their homes to study or find employment. As result, tithing within churches in Aborigine reservations dwindles and the number of people that work on the land also decreases.
Under such circumstances, it’s difficult for Aborigine churches to maintain ministries or afford their pastors’ salaries. The signing of an ECFA with China only makes matters worse because Aborigine produce will inevitably be replaced by cheaper Chinese imports.
Rev. Omi Wilang further highlighted that many Aborigine churches in the city struggle with securing good mortgage deals to build their own church or renting a church facility.
In addition, many young Aborigines also struggle with understanding church services in Taiwanese language, the common language in PCT churches, and leave for other denominations or stop going to church altogether.
However, Rev. Omi Wilang felt that the greatest challenge of all was that Aborigines who’ve migrated also live scattered in many cities and this phenomenon has greatly hampered them from meeting up on a regular basis.
As for the few cities that have Aborigine churches, many of them include Aborigines from at least two different tribes. This trend makes holding services in one Aborigine language that everyone can understand very difficult.