June 18-24, 2012
General Assembly News
Southern Bunun mobilizes staff and resources to help storm victims
Reported by Chen Yi-hsuan
Written by Lydia Ma
Taiwan experienced rainstorms in the beginning of June, which washed away many roads in Namasia and Taoyuan regions in the outskirts of Kaohsiung City and forced about 400 residents to evacuate to Fengshan region. PCT’s South Bunun Presbytery, whose local congregations were displaced and suffered many losses during Typhoon Morakot, quickly mobilized staff and resources and set up a coordination center.
The presbytery’s general secretary Rev. Ibu said that many pastors had already formed small groups and visited the places these residents were staying at in Fengshan to help out and lead worship services. As for the few residents who remain in Namasia and Taoyuan watching over their homes, they are doing well. She added that she hoped the general public would strive to understand why some indigenous residents are keen to stay at home, instead of laying undue blame on them.
Heavy rains beginning from June 9 has flooded homes and churches in South Bunun, Tsou, Paiwan, Atayal, and Eastern Paiwan presbyteries. Ibu added that a coordination was created very soon after the storm began so that churches could contact their presbyteries and receive help as well as send out prayer requests.
A helicopter had been dispatched on June 13 to help evacuate elderly residents and young children at Meilan reservation, while some residents from Namasia and Taoyuan stayed in a safe place not far from home. Asked about why so many indigenous refuse to leave their homes, Ibu said that it was because they wanted to protect their homes. She added that residents fear that if they evacuate, the government will no longer see the need to fix broken mountain roads, which will eventually force indigenous peoples to abandon their homes permanently.
She added that most of the general public is unaware of indigenous peoples’ lifestyles and their customs, and therefore, tend to blame the latter for wasting government and social resources. However, this blame is unwarranted “It’s our home,” she said. “We know how to live with the mountains and our ancestors have braved many storms before. Indigenous peoples have their own way of life that works for them.”
“Is it our fault that mountain roads are subpar, forests are exploited, and water is illegally diverted across regions?” She implored that the government reflect on what is happening to many mountainous regions in Taiwan and find out the root of the problem instead of addressing superficial issues and blaming indigenous peoples for living in dangerous areas.
A YouTube clip recorded by Nansalu residents on June 12 was circulated recently. In this video, residents told everyone that they were doing well and they still had some food stored up though the roads leading to their homes had been washed away by the storm. Nansalu borough chief especially thanked the PCT and World Vision for their help in building a temporary shelter for them to take refuge when needed, which is located not too far from the reservation.
Photo provided by South Bunun Presbytery