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3134 Edition
March 19-25, 2012
Church Ministry News

Shou-shan Presbytery establishes Indonesian gospel center to reach out to foreign workers in Taiwan

Reported by Simon Lin

Written by Lydia Ma

The number of non-Taiwanese spouses and foreign workers in Taiwan has increased steadily in the past few years and these two groups now account for about 400,000 people, just slightly less than the number of indigenous peoples in Taiwan. This trend was noted by Shou-shan Presbytery’s Ministers’ Committee in 2011, which prompted the latter to contemplate creating gospel centers for a prominent subgroup made up mostly of caregivers from Indonesia. “Indonesian New Immigrants Gospel Center” was established recently to serve Indonesian women in Kaohsiung area and the committee urged churches in Kaohsiung area to relay this news to Indonesian women in their churches.

According to the center’s convener, Rev. Chuang Ying-jen, the idea to establish such a center was brought up 10 years ago by Kaohsiung Christian Family Association former director Fong Sih-he when the association first began to reach out to Indonesian workers. This ministry eventually began at Chung-Sheng Presbyterian Church in 2008 in the form of small groups and Indonesian worship services. The ministry moved to Hsin-Hsing Presbyterian Church near Formosa Boulevard Station in 2011 for the convenience of those attending the meetings.

According to Fong, Indonesian Gospel Center is now headed by “Eliza” – an Indonesian woman whose husband is Taiwanese. Eliza grew up in a Christian family and had a hard time adjusting to life in Taiwan during the first few years of her marriage. She felt very homesick and often argued with her husband. However, God became her solace and helped her overcome difficult circumstances.

After being comforted by God, she began to share the gospel with fellow Indonesians and they began having fellowship in their homes or at a park. At one time, the group grew to 20 people but dwindled later on as Eliza also had to work. She has since quit her job to focus on this ministry and work full-time at the Indonesian Gospel Center.

Eliza now leads fellowship meetings at this center every Sunday from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. The meeting starts with singing a few praise songs before the ladies share their thoughts on a passage from Scripture. Eliza then prays for the ladies and their needs at the conclusion of the meeting. She also treats them to a meal at an Indonesian restaurant after the meeting to alleviate some for their homesickness.

The support of local churches and presbyteries is vital in ministries such as the Indonesia Gospel Center. With the help of the local presbytery, the center was able to secure a venue and some funding, but the remaining biggest challenge is inviting people to attend the meetings. According to reports, it is a difficult for foreign spouses to leave their homes due to discriminatory restrictions, an overwhelming amount of housework, or restrictions from venturing out alone. In contrast, Indonesian women who work in Taiwan as caregivers find it easier to take time off on a regular basis to attend meetings.

To overcome this challenge, Eliza sometimes reaches out to women who can’t attend meetings by calling them or inviting a Taiwanese friend to come along with her to pay a formal visit. Whenever they are able to pay a formal visit and introduce themselves to the in-laws of these women, they try to convince them to let their daughter-in-laws come to church.

Members from Fengshan Presbyterian Church and Tainan Theological College and Seminary frequently help out at the center. Chuang is urging churches to let their members know about this center so that they may refer it to Indonesian ladies who need a helping hand.

 

 

 
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3134 Edition
March 19-25, 2012
Headline News

Rice bran oil poisoning in 1979 brought to the forefront amid government mishandling of food safety

Reported by Lin Yi-ying

Written by Lydia Ma

As the nationwide furor over imports of U.S. beef containing ractopamine, government cover-up of an avian flu outbreak, and new revelations over leanness enhancers in homegrown pork continue to rise across Taiwan, a look at recent Taiwanese history reveals that food safety scandals are not new in Taiwan. Youth Synergy Taiwan Foundation and a renowned blogger and member of Thai-peng-keng Maxwell Memorial Church invited Taiwan Oil Disease Victims Support Association General Secretary Chen Wen-pin to speak about an food poisoning incident that occurred in 1979 in central Taiwan.

According to Chen, in 1979, thousands of people were poisoned and developed pustules after consuming rice-bran oil that had been contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and some of these victims included students and teachers from a school for blind children. However, the outbreak was originally discovered months earlier, toward the end of 1978, when Changhua Christian Hospital Department of Dermatology Chair Kao Hsin-yi learned during a tour of Fusing and Lukang townships that many low-income villagers had a strange skin disease. Kao suspected that this disease was the result of food poisoning.

Though Kao reported his suspicions to the local health department, his findings were ignored by authorities until the disease became an epidemic in central Taiwan. Upon investigation, the source of the poison was traced to a rice-bran oil company in Changhua, where polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) normally used for heating had somehow leaked from ruptured pipelines into the rice bran oil.

“The rice-bran oil incident is probably the first major food safety crisis in Taiwan!” said Chen Wen-pin, who grew up in Lukang and had seen pustules on many of his classmates when he went to elementary school there. He later discovered the source of this skin disease after viewing a film and book produced by author Chen Chao-ju chronicling this incident.

“The number of victims who suffered food poisoning by consuming contaminated rice-bran oil ranges from 1,400 to 2,000 people,” said Chen Chao-ju. “But we know that many people don’t want to talk about it or confess that they were also victims because PCBs cannot be excreted and may even be passed on to future generations. Because victims fear being labeled and ostracized by society, they don’t want to draw publicity by claiming that they were also affected by this incident.”

Chen Chao-ju underscored that most of the victims of the rice-bran oil incident were poor people living in the countryside who didn’t know they had certain ights as citizens and consumers. She went on to add that the reason this incident became an outbreak was because government agencies failed to monitor food safety and ignored and undermined warning alerts sent by experts. Unfortunately, government response to recent scandals involving avian flu, US beef, and leanness enhancers in pork have shown that not much has changed in the past 3 decades.

“These recent scandals have a lot in common with the plasticizer scandal in 2011. Don’t assume that you won’t be the next one affected by food poisoning!” warned Chen Wen-pin. She also urged people to get involved because food safety affects everyone. “If you think that people decrying social injustices today are mere strangers and their concerns are none of your business, no one will mind you in the future when your turn comes to point out a social injustice!”

 
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3134 Edition
March 19-25, 2012
Headline News

Christian youths are leaders and models in youth awakening movement

Reported by Simon Lin

Written by Lydia Ma

March 29 is Youth Day in Taiwan and Taiwan Alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare is suggesting this year that the date be moved to August 12 to coincide with the U.N. International Youth Day. But regardless of which day it falls on, this day is a good opportunity to review the role of youths, especially church youths, in shaping and transforming society.

As the nation marked the 65th anniversary of the 228 Massacre on February 28 of this year, a student organization at National Cheng-Kung University decided that it needed to do something original to raise awareness of past mistakes and call on government and school authorities to hold the perpetrators of the massacre accountable. With this in mind, members of the student organization O2 Group – whose name is a phonetic translation of “protest” in Taiwanese – decided to “artfully redecorate” the statue of Chiang Kai-shek inside NCKU campus .

Students hung a paper board that read “1947-2012” on the statue of Chiang Kai-shek and wrote the names of victims of the 228 Massacre on pieces of paper and placed them around the statute and along the ground nearby. They also sprayed red paint on the statue and on the ground as if to say that the blood of innocent people is still crying out for justice. On one of Chiang’s hand, they attached a dummy to symbolize the shadow of authoritarianism still lurking in Taiwan.

NCKU officials condemned this incident and promptly ordered the school’s maintenance crew to clean up the area. In response, the 02 Group posted a statement on its website to claim responsibility and accept punishment. “However, taking responsibility for our actions doesn’t mean that we regret what we did, because we don’t.” The statement went on to say that after considering all possible consequences for redecorating Chiang’s bronze statue, 02 Group still decided to go ahead as planned because it wanted Taiwanese to see it and think long and hard about the meaning of the 228 Peace Memorial Day.

“As February 28 approached, we began to discuss what we could do as the most prominent student activist organization,” said 02 Group President and Tingchin Presbyterian Church member Chen Yi-chen. She added that the only motive for redecorating the statue was to point out that injustices remain to this day.

After the incident was picked up and reported by the media, nationwide debate on this matter ensued. National Taiwan University Students soon launched a petition to express their solidarity with NCKU students and their petition also underscored that they regretted NCKU officials’ attitude. Within days, more than 10 student associations around Taiwan also expressed their support and organizations such as the 228 Care Committee and Taiwan Teachers Alliance also expressed support. Though some people expressed their opposition, issues such as whether to do away with Chiang Kai-shek’s bronze statue and transitional justice were widely discussed.

Rev. Soong Hsin-le, senior pastor of Tingchin Presbyterian Church, called Chen after this incident to encourage her and affirm her actions, underscoring that, as a Christian church, the PCT is opposed to both idol worship of Chiang and authoritarianism. “She has a lot of courage,” he said. “Though she may have to face many hardships for the time being, we are confident that her faith will help her stand and remain strong.”

Chen underscored that many of the student organizations that showed their support and signed petitions were founded in the aftermath of the Wild Strawberry Student Movement. These student organizations across Taiwan maintain contact with one another through the Internet and support one another’s events.

Though Tungning Presbyterian Church member and 02 Group’s first president, Lin Fei-fan, already graduated from NCKU and currently studies at National Taiwan University, he still cares about his alma mater and his friends at NCKU. Looking back at the Wild Strawberry Student Movement, he underscored that it had a lasting effect on youths across Taiwan. The 02 Group’s goals are to encourage introspection on existing social values and lifestyles, teach youths to care for their land, and teach youths to become independent thinkers who can contribute to the future of their society.

Chen Yi-chen said that many people in Taiwan lack the ability to discern unjust and unreasonable situations. In most cases, even if people can discern, they act as if these injustices are none of their business. “They like to encourage others to pursue their dreams but label social activists as a bunch of lazy people. What we want to do is to change society’s perspective on this.”

For this reason, the 02 Group has used symposiums, book studies, and public viewing of documentaries to raise awareness on various issues such as human rights and environmental protection. It hopes that these discussions will help people think independently and critically on social issues such as ECFA and Kuokuang Petrochemical’s naphtha plants. 

 

 


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