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Taipei Prayer Breakfast

Here’s one I missed from a few weeks ago:

The 9th National Prayer Breakfast took place on November 28th at  7:30 a.m. under the theme “Rise up and Shine: Creating a just, merciful, and peaceful  country”. It took place at Taipei International Convention Center and President Ma Ying-jeou, along  with several cabinet ministers, attended the meeting. Ma went up to the stage at one  point during the breakfast so that pastors could lay hands on him, bless him, and pray for him.

Ma’s background is Roman Catholic, although he is reportedly non-practising. However, as with “prayer breakfasts” in other countries, the event was useful to all concerned; the political leader gets a boost, while the church leaders get a national pulpit:

The sermon in Taiwanese was delivered by Rev. Hsiao Shiang-hsiu, who reminded the audience through his sermon that God wanted Taiwan to become a  country that loved  justice, mercy, and peace. He also lauded President Ma’s  moral integrity and urged him to continue leading the country in the way of righteousness.

Meanwhile, Rev. Chou Shen-Chu of Taipei Bread of Life Church urged Taiwan to emulate Singapore:

…though  Singapore was a country sandwiched between countries, it somehow managed to blossom and  become a strong country. Singapore’s success is due in large part because of  its government’s integrity and love for justice, as well as its vibrant churches.

The China Post adds further details:

At the breakfast meeting…Chou Shen-chu termed the obscene and violent presentation of “Animated News” Web site by the Apple Daily as a kind of “dark force”, and lauded Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s decision to impose fines on the Apple Daily and ban city schools and libraries from subscribing to the Apple Daily until it improves the Action news contents.

Chou said that Hau’s practice is aimed at allowing the next generation to grow up in a clean environment, and prevent the “dark force” from continuing to influence the country.

Apple Daily is a sensationalist tabloid based in both Hong Kong and Taiwan; its “Action News” consists of bad-taste Grand Theft Auto-style reconstructions of violent crimes, and it recently received international attention for a tacky and speculative piece on Tiger Woods’ car accident. However, when clergy and politicians appear on stage together to praise censorship, alarm bells tend to go off. As the New York Times notes:

The young democracy is especially wary of any controls on the news media, given four decades of censorship under the Kuomintang government.

Chou is incorrectly described by the China Post as being a Catholic priest; in fact, his “Bread of Life Church” (or “Ling Liang Church”) is an independent Protestant denomination. He has spoken at various civic events in Taipei, such as Mayor Hau’s inauguration in 2006, and last year he “presented a Chinese-English devotional book” to President Ma while Ma was meeting Franklin Graham. He takes the view that

churches should not intervene or involve in politics, but should produce positive influence in spiritual education aspect; the greater influence is the best.

Last year’s Prayer Breakfast showed that Taiwanese politicians were prepared to embrace in Christian unity only so far; the Taipei Times reported:

Ma promised to answer people’s expectations by establishing a clean government and pushing for a peaceful cross-strait relationship.

Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen…also attended the event.

Although Ma shook hands with Tsai immediately after arriving at the event, the two, who were at the same table, did not exchange words.

The Prayer Breakfast is of course an American import, but the Washington Prayer Breakfast  – memorably described by Jeff Sharlet in his book The Family (p. 195) as a means to “lop off the left end of the political spectrum and cauterize the wound” – has been more than just a model for Taiwan. The St. Petersburg Times reported in 2000:

In past years, Taiwan’s long- ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has been a major financial backer of the prayer breakfast and many other such events in the United States.

The party contributes to the prayer breakfast as part of an unpublicized, but highly effective effort to maintain Taiwan’s influence with Washington politicians. The KMT’s strategy was developed after then-President Richard M. Nixon broke off formal diplomatic relations with the tiny island nation in the early 1970s.

(Name variations: ???, Chow Shen-Chu, Chou Sin-cho, Chow Shin-cho)

One Response

  1. Great work, as always, Richard. I’ve posted a link to your post at the two blogs I’m affiliated with and followed it up with some documents on the Family-Taiwan relationship from my archive:

    http://jeffsharlet.blogspot.com/2009/12/family-and-taiwan.html

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