I had a short letter published in the Taipei Times today. The letter was written in response to a group of so-called religious leaders in Taiwan campaigning against same-sex marriage. The Taipei Times have also made the issue the subject of its editorial today.
I would also like to remind people of the positive example set by Ven. Chao-hwei (釋昭慧) who hosted a wedding for a lesbian couple at Hongshi Buddhist College last year. That is a true example of religious leadership.
I was disturbed to read of some Taiwanese religious leaders speaking out against same-sex marriage (“Same-sex marriage criticized,” Sept. 19, page 2). The claims they make about same-sex marriage and homosexuality are not only ridiculous, they are a form of hate speech.
The homophobic views being promoted by these religious organizations create hatred and division within society. They cause real harm to gay people who are the target of their attacks.
Fortunately not all religious groups in Taiwan share these extreme views. However, it is important that they condemn the words of these so-called religious leaders. A clear message needs to be sent that preaching homophobia is totally unacceptable.
I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.
After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks. Continue reading →
I took the opportunity to do a bit of local tourism today heading out to Dajia (大甲) in Taichung County. The first place I stopped was the Wenchang Shrine (文昌祠), a beautiful little temple with neatly kept grounds.
Next stop was the Dajia Matsu Temple (大甲鎮瀾宮). The temple is one of the busiest and most important religious centres in Taiwan. It is the starting point of the annual Matsu pilgrimage held in March or April. Continue reading →
The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan on a China Airlines flight from Delhi late last night. He was welcomed by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu before taking a specially chartered high speed train to Kaohsiung. Given the short time frame between the Dalai Lama’s invitation and his arrival in Taiwan it is not surprising there have been some changes to his schedule. However, many of these changes may have been for political rather than practical reasons.
Today’s Liberty Times (自由時報) has an article titled, “Friends of Tibet blames Ma for restricting Dalai Lama’s activities” (台灣圖博批馬 限制達賴活動). I have translated the first part of the article.
The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan late last night. Compared to the Dalai Lama’s respects and good wishes, Taiwan’s has shown its hospitality by cancelling the press conference and public speech in Taoyuan. The venue of the public speech in Kaohsiung has also been changed. Chow Mei-li, President of Taiwan Friends of Tibet, indignantly blamed Ma Ying-jeou for his double-handed tactics. On the one hand he respected public opinion by allowing the Dalai Lama to come, on the other hand he restricted the Dalai Lama’s entire schedule in Taiwan. Chow said, “This is definitely a result of pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. It is becoming more apparent that the Ma government is not acting autonomously, it is not even a good puppet emperor!”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is set to visit Taiwan next week to provide comfort to the victims of the Typhoon Morakot. He was invited by DPP city and county chiefs in Southern Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou subsequently gave his approval for the visit. In December last year Ma rejected the possibility of the Dalai Lama visiting Taiwan even though no formal invitation had been issued at the time. However, with his approval rating plummeting in the wake of the central government’s inept response to the typhoon Ma couldn’t afford to say no this time. It was a smart political move by the DPP.
I took the above photo of a poster at the 50 years of Tibet in Exile exhibition that was held at Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in July this year. I think it is interesting on a number of levels. First it shows the Dalai Lama meeting various world leaders including several Presidents of Taiwan and the USA. However, under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act it is not possible for the Presidents of the USA and Taiwan to meet each other in person.
The Dalai Lama previously visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2001. The photo shows the Dalai Lama meeting with the three most recent Presidents of Taiwan. Lee Teng-hui, presumably on the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Taiwan in 1997. The Dalai Lama met Chen Shui-bian on his second visit to Taiwan in 2001. The KMT actually prevented Chen from meeting the Dalai Lama when he was the Mayor of Taipei in 1997. Lastly the photo of the Dalai Lama meeting Ma Ying-jeou who is now the President, but I presume the photo was taken in 2001 when Ma was the Mayor of Taipei.
Of course the big question now is whether Ma Ying-jeou, as the incumbent President, will meet with the Dalai Lama this time. Sadly there seems to be no chance for former President Chen Shui-bian to meet the Dalai Lama this time as he is still being held in detention waiting for the verdict in his trial to be handed down on 11 September.
Thousands of Thai people gathered at the Taoyuan Stadium today to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year. The festival is also known as the Water Festival and often includes riotous water fights. It was a beautiful sunny day for the event in Taoyuan, although the water throwing was rather tame in comparison to what goes on in Thailand.
The event began with the monks chanting blessings before accepting alms. Here the people are lined up ready to offer food to the monks.
After the first day of the Lunar New Year passed uneventfully I joined the mass exodus from Taipei to places further south. I met a friend at Taipei Station a little before 9:00 am and we were able to purchase a ticket to Taichung on the High Speed train for 11:00 am that day. There were no tickets for unreserved carriages being sold during the holiday period. The journey was fast and smooth and the sun started shining about ten minutes before we reached Taichung HSR Station.
The old street of Lugang was pulling in the crowds — it was busy but not overwhelmingly so. The town’s main Mazu Temple (天后宮) was also a busy place and you can see the crowds making their New Year wishes above.
The Wenwu Temple (文武廟) was relatively free of people. The open grounds of the temple made it very nice to walk around and its buildings have been carefully restored. Continue reading →
Democracy’s Dharma studies four religious groups in Taiwan. Three of them are Buddhist: Fo Guang Shan (佛光山), Tzu Chi (慈濟) and Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山). The other is the Taoist group of Xingtian Temple (行天宮). It is based on the thesis that these groups have contributed to the development of democracy and civil society in Taiwan. Robert Green has reviewed the book in the July 2008 Taiwan Review. Continue reading →