TEF Newsletter (Issue No.008)
“Those who are in pain must lead the way,” said Bishop Rex Reyes at the meeting of the Steering Group (SG) of the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum. He was speaking to the next steps for the TEF, the major agenda item for the meeting. The SG, co-convened by Rev. Chris Ferguson, General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and Rev. Collin Cowan, General Secretary of the Council for World Mission, met in Berlin, Germany on February 26-27, hosted by the Berliner Missionswerk.
In keeping with the promise to the TEF meeting participants in November last year, the SG considered the full report of the Listening and Discerning Group (LDG) which contained several recommendations for the TEF. To assist this task, the SG heard a presentation by one of the theological reflectors at the November TEF meeting, Prof. Huang Po Ho, and listened to a reflection by Rev. Lian Chin-Siong, the PCT Program Secretary for Ecumenical Relations. Rev. Chris Ferguson reviewed for the SG the latest developments in the geopolitical map, emphasizing the growing political and military confrontation in the Asia/Pacific arena.
The SG also engaged in an evaluation of the November meeting. Among the key findings:
(a) It was a satisfactory event meeting the purpose of analyzing issues from an Asia/Pacific regional
perspective. (b) The youth pre-meeting was crucial in enabling their participation and dynamic
engagement. (c) The understanding of the empire has been deepened and enhanced with a
regional perspective. (d) The representation of women participants and resource persons were
heartening but there was not a sufficient discussion on gender justice. (e) The issue of
ecumenism in Taiwan remains a serious challenge. (f) There was insufficient time for more
plenary conversations. (g) The update on Taiwan’s situation internationally and the state of the
transitional justice processes were delivered.
The SG heard an update by Rev. Lyim Hong-Tiong, General Secretary of the PCT. Rev. Lyim
Said that the recent developments affecting Taiwan included local elections that saw a stinging rebuke of President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party. At the same time, China’s bullying tactics continue unabated, especially the widely publicised statement by Xi Jing Ping on January 2 threatening to use force against Taiwan. He also noted a concerning development in the continuing obstruction by the KMT in the transitional justice implementation. The KMT continued to stonewall the recovery of its ill-gotten wealth and the proposal to remove the monuments celebrating and commemorating its erstwhile leaders, now viewed by many Taiwanese as dictators.
Consequently, with a view to contributing to the emotional daily national conversation, the relevant governance bodies of the PCT issued four major statements since the November TEF meeting. The first was on December 17 by the Executive Committee entitled “Striving Bravely Forward on the Way of Democracy with Love and Tolerance” The second statement was by the Church and Society Committee entitled, “Unity in the Face of outside Aggression is our Responsibility.” This was issued on January 7, five days after the speech by Xi. The third statement was issued on January 11 by the Indigenous Mission Committee entitled, “Denounce China’s ‘Blood Relatives Myth’ in Trying to Annex Taiwan.” On January 15, the Executive Committee issued another statement “On Safeguarding Taiwan’s Sovereignty and Dignity.”
On the basis of these comprehensive review and presentations, the SG explored the various possibilities for the next steps in group discussions. The groups were requested to provide feasible activities with a concrete timeline and resource suggestions.
In the final decision about an event that would fulfil the objectives of the TEF, the SG agreed that the pain and isolation that the people of Taiwan are facing, must be addressed through the perspectives of those who had suffered injustice because of their marginalization, discrimination and oppression. On a proposal by Bishop Reyes, the SG decided to hold a convocation in the Philippines some time in 2019 bringing together the Indigenous peoples, youth and women. The TEF will facilitate this event to be hosted by Bishop Reyes and his Philippine colleagues but the agenda will and the program will be organized by the three groups.
In another key decision, the SG respond positively to an invitation by the DARE program of the Council for World Mission to provide a briefing to the 90-some DARE participants and to engage in a dialogue about TEF. The Discernment and Radical Engagement (DARE) program brings together world-renowned theologians and academicians to assist the churches and their theological institutions to deepen and broader their theological and missional engagement. The DARE program will be held in Taiwan from June 19 to 22. The joint meeting between the DARE and the TEF SG will take place on June 19.
The next meeting of the SG will take place in Taiwan on June 17 and 18.
The Steering Group members, in addition to the co-conveners, present at the Berlin meeting were:
Victor Hsu (PCT), Michael Jagessar (United Reformed Church), Melzar Labuntog (UCC-Philippines), Nancy Lin (PCT), Kato Makoto (UCC-Japan), Linda Patton-Cowie (Presbyterian Church in Canada), Rex Reyes (Episcopal Church, Philippines), Park Sungkook (PROK), Sudu Tada (PCT), Sunita Suna (WSCF), Christof Theilemann (BM)
In addition, from the PCT staff: Li U-Peng, Lian Chin-Siong, Lyim Hong-Tiong, General Secretary. There were three non-SG members: Huang Po Ho (Taiwan), Balazs Odor (Hungarian Reformed Church), and Ariel Siagan (Philippines)