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Taiwan Seminar Reveals Past and Present Religious Persecution

Taicheng, Taiwan – In observance of U.N. World Interfaith Harmony Week 2023, UPF-Taiwan and the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD)-Japan held a symposium, "History of Religious Persecution and Conflict, and Opportunities for Reconciliation and Development," on February 8 at a venue in Taichung City, Taiwan, with speakers and participants in Japan taking part virtually. Around 160 religious leaders and Ambassadors for Peace attended the event, which addressed the theme “Decline of Religions Endangers Nations.”


The program opened with remarks by Dr. Yen-Po Tang, president of UPF-Taiwan. Dr. Tang noted that religion is the fruit of human wisdom, and has a positive impact not only on individuals, but also on families, communities, nations and the world. He expressed his hope that the symposium, which brought together representatives from Buddhist, Christian and emerging faiths, would stimulate a lively discussion.


Four sessions of presentations followed. The first session addressed the history of religious persecution of Buddhists. Dr. An-Wu Lin, professor at the Institute of Religion and Humanities of Tzu Chi University, explained the history of mistreatment Buddhists experienced and how they overcame it, as well as basic teachings of the faith tradition.


The second session focused on the history of suppression and resurgence of Taoism. Dr. Feng-Mao Li, professor emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies at National Chengchi University, explained the teachings of the Tao Te Ching, purportedly written by Lao-Tse. He focused in particular on ji, which means affection for others, which Lao-Tse considered to be of great importance.


In the third session, Mr. Shinobu Ishimaru, coordinator of IAPD-Japan and president of the Interreligious Federation for World Peace, spoke about the history of persecution of Christians in Japan. Mr. Ishimaru explained that the first Christian missionaries arrived in Japan in 1549, and were sent to various regions. Christianity spread mainly in western Japan, but the Edo shogunate's oppression resulted in the missionaries’ martyrdom and forced apostasy. There was a brief revival of Christianity during the wave of modernization in the early Meiji period, but the momentum stalled afterwards.


Mr. Ishimaru also spoke about current religious persecution in Japan. He cautioned that inciting confrontation, rather than engaging in dialogue and cooperation with religions, would endanger the basic principles of the nation. Also, the decline of religion could lead to spiritual degeneracy. Therefore, now is the time for unwavering faith in God and unity among believers, not only in Japan, but also abroad, he said.


At the end of the session, Mr. Ishimaru introduced the activities of IAPD-Japan and the work of the religious ambassadors for peace, who have been praying together for peace in places where there is hatred.


In the final session, leaders from different faiths spoke about how new religions are contributing to modern society. Rev. Fumiya Sakou, chief priest of the Koujuin Buddhist Temple of the Jodo Shinshu Sect, who participated online from Japan, criticized the Japanese media for constantly presenting biased news concerning new religious traditions. He said he feels that forces based on materialistic ideology are working behind the scenes in Japan and abroad. He appealed to the participants to unite, as human beings with souls, to rise above national borders and acknowledge the oppression of spirituality as a holy ordeal, to help break through the discrimination.



By UPF-Taiwan February 8, 2023


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