July 16-22, 2012
Editorial: Let the people have true freedom
Translated by Lydia Ma
Though it has been a quarter of a century since martial law was lifted in Taiwan, an invisible cloud of fear still hovers over Taiwanese society, and a sense of slavery still exists in the hearts of Taiwanese, keeping them from becoming responsible citizens of their country. In this day and age, greed and the incessant pursuit of success and comfortable living has devoured our society. To counter such social decadence and free our society, we must avidly pursue the truth.
Jesus once said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When the Jews who were following him first heard him say this, they were upset with Jesus and responded, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (see John 8:32-33).
Have these people truly “never” been slaves? Didn’t their ancestors endure many trials and tribulations in order to get out of Egypt where they were slaves? Centuries later, weren’t their ancestors captured and forced into slavery in Babylon? When these Jews responded to Jesus, didn’t they realize that they were under the rule of the Roman government at that point in time? Did they not know that their brethren were being forced to go the extra mile and give up their outer garments if Roman soldiers so requested? Did they truly believe that their customs and religion were being respected by Herod? They were so enamored with the status quo that they refused the truth that would set them free and even sought to kill anyone who proclaimed the truth.
Many people have criticized that Taiwanese society suffers from collective amnesia. Taiwanese are not much different from Jewish people during Jesus’ time, who were not free men and yet thought they were free men. When martial law was still in place in Taiwan, many people chose to repress their anger and go on living as if nothing wrong was happening. People at the time did not dare to utter anything about their identity that was contrary to the government propaganda. Furthermore, whenever people stood up and took a different stand than the government on these issues, they would be arrested, placed on surveillance, or even murdered. Instead of standing up and berating the oppressive KMT government, the media would also make fun of these people and use their fates to warn and threaten the public.
Merely lifting martial law does not mean that people will henceforth be truly free, because the road to political democracy is a long and winding road. For example, though restrictions on freedom of the press were relaxed after martial law was lifted, “Freedom Era Weekly” was still confiscated by authorities and its publisher, Cheng Nan-jung (Nylon Deng), committed suicide by self-immolation to resist impending arrest. This incident happened 2 years after martial law was lifted. It is an enduring reminder that the road to democracy is arduous and the price in human lives to secure it is high.
How then should we respond to Jesus’ claim that “the truth will set you free”? Do we say that we were never enslaved? Do we boast in the privileges we now have? Or do we repent of our blindness, pride, and lack of sympathy, and start to take note of all the injustices and sufferings around us? Let us pursue the Gospel that sets people free! In this chaotic day and age, let us fight for the truth and pay the price to secure it if needed.