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Public witness goes unnoticed

What does the Church have to do to attract media attention in Taiwan?

Francis Kuo Francis Kuo
  • Francis Kuo, Taipei
  • Taiwan
  • April 29, 2011
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A female university student carried a huge cross, walking in downtown Taipei without catching the attention of secular media. Is this some form of message for the Taiwan Church as to whether evangelization in public should be done in a Western or Chinese style, or maybe even in a Taiwanese way?

On April 22, Good Friday, the Kuting Sacred Heart of Jesus Church of Taipei archdiocese held the Way of the Cross in public. Maria Hsieh, a university student in her final year, volunteered to replace one of the men to carry the nearly 100 kilogram wooden cross and walked about 100 meters to the last station.

Hsieh, who was baptized in her childhood, played the role of the Blessed Mother during Taiwan Youth Day last year. This time she wanted to taste the suffering of Jesus Christ. The cross was so heavy that she walked every step with all her strength.

She was followed by more than 150 faithful, young and old, with some carrying banners that read “Walk for Jesus and pray for the sufferers.”

Their hymns and prayers attracted onlookers in the shops along the route and in vehicles waiting for the group to pass.

Jesuit Father Ignatius Hung Wan-liu, parish priest, said it was the second time they had made a public Way of the Cross. Last year they walked around the neighboring lanes and avenues but this year they decided to walk on main roads.

In its 2011 pastoral letter, the bishops’ conference in Taiwan addressed the needs and challenges of evangelization in a local context, encouraging faithful to adopt special programs and actions to preach the Good News effectively.

Indeed, Church activities in Taiwan have seen great improvement in outreach in recent years. It not only attempts to go into society but also through special activities to attract public attention.

On April 16, Taichung diocese celebrated its golden jubilee at the historical Holy Name of Jesus Church in Changhua county with a traditional lion dance, in which performers mimic a lion’s movements to the beat of gongs and drums.

This way of showing the Catholic Church to the public via a ritual dance that, it is believed, could ward off evil and usher good luck, drew more than 1,500 young and old curious villagers.

Some dioceses also took part in other public events, such as making giant Catholic-themed lanterns in the Lantern Festival.

However, in comparison with other religions, these public activities of the Church attract little attention from secular media, although similar processions of Buddhists or folk religions can get substantial coverage in newspapers and TV.

Also in April, the annual procession of the Sea Goddess Matsu attracts tens of thousands people, fighting to carry the sedan for her statue. Along the way, there were unceasing drumbeats and burning of deafening firecrackers. The roads were crowded and TV footage of the procession went on day and night.

The same scenario was seen during the reception of the Buddha’s tooth relic tour in Taiwan as well as the funeral of Buddhist Master Sheng Yen years ago. Comprehensive media coverage has taught the public a lecture on Buddhism.

In the Philippines or other Catholic countries in South and Latin America, a girl carrying a massive cross down the street would mostly likely be given big coverage, maybe even front-page treatment.

But unfortunately Hsien is in Taiwan and the scene disappeared quietly around the corner of Taipei.

It is worthwhile to look into the fact that our evangelization activities were often held “quietly” even they were meant to be street rallies or public processions. It seems that it could not attract much attention from the secular media.

Is our “serene evangelization” unable to localize itself? Or is the Taiwan Church too alien to the operation of the local media?

Francis Kuo is ucanews.com correspondent in Taiwan

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