A socio-religious reflection on Taiwan's elections

The church can learn from the spirit and style of Pope Francis by respecting other viewpoints
A socio-religious reflection on Taiwan's elections

Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, right, joins hands with vice presidential candidate Chen Chien-jen after winning Taiwan's elections on Jan. 15. (Photo by Sam Yeh/AFP)

Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections have just concluded, and the results imply the coming of a new era.

From the election there are three things that are relevant to the Catholic Church in Taiwan, the first being Chen Chien-jen becoming the country's first Catholic vice president.

Before Chen was elected, the secretary general of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference, Father Otfried Chen said the church itself should stay out of politics.

When asked by the media on why Catholic candidates did not campaign on church grounds, Father Chen said the church couldn't be equated with worldly nations or political parties.

"The church is proclaiming the Kingdom of God and its values are beyond time and space, race, age, gender, country boundaries, such as truth and love, justice and peace, unity and tolerance, repentance and sanctification," he said.

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Hosting political activities on church grounds would contradict the church's message and mission, Father Chen said.

Joseph Lee, president of National Council of the Lay Apostolate in Taiwan, said he had asked its member organizations in all dioceses to remain neutral during  elections. He said that they should adhere to the Gospel's teachings: "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

However, when comparing the remarks of Pope Francis, and examples set by some bishops' conferences in other countries, we can see that: "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" does not mean the Catholic Church should completely keep its mouth shut on politics.

Instead, the church should ponder more on how to proclaim the Kingdom of God by emphasizing the value of transcendence and assisting Catholics to fulfill the church's mission.

 

Religious parties

Secondly, votes received by those parties with a religious background in this election were, on average, below 2 percent. Such poor results revealed that their platforms do not reflect the values of the general public. One example being the Faith and Hope League, a party seen by many as homophobic. A petition that the party reportedly sent out to public primary and secondary schools, part of its "Plebiscite on Protecting Families" campaign, was not well received.

The petition asked parents to sign the petition in support of traditional family values. In other words, it was rejecting same-sex marriage. The petition created concern among many parents who were unsure of the consequences if they did not complete it, especially as it was included as part of their children's homework.

I could not help but question the strategy, given that the Faith and Hope League said it manifested the values of family and marriage. Instead "love" should be their core value but their version of so-called "love" was done in such an agitating way by exploiting the public school system to pressure parents to involuntarily support their campaign.

Thirdly, the younger generations revealed their political influence via the Internet. The use of the Internet has indeed ushered in a new level of public participation in politics where many people no longer accept decisions without sufficient consultation.

 

Moving forward

The most important task for the new leaders is to collect and digest the various views of the people, using it to then formulate and implement polices that will best serve the interests of society.

We should not be expecting any elected leaders to help the Catholic Church or to push any perceived agendas. Instead the Catholic Church in Taiwan can learn from the spirit and style of Pope Francis by respecting other viewpoints while avoid making decisions within small circles.

The same form can be followed when dealing with issues in a local political, economic or social context as the Catholic Church has done in both South Korea and Hong Kong.

To assist the laity to fulfill the church's mission, the Catholic Church in Taiwan should empower itself to acknowledge Taiwan's key social issues in order to carry out the church's social teachings.

Faustina Nuanting Huang is a researcher for the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research

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