08/02/2012, 00.00
TAIWAN

Taiwanese Church celebrates "Day for Aborigines"

Xin Yage
Bishops ask the roughly 500 thousand natives, the original inhabitants of the island, to custody their traditional culture and language; safeguard marriage, encourage religious vocations. After centuries of marginalization, Taiwan is seeing a revival of the value of indigenous cultures. A film starring a Presbyterian minister.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - Yesterday, August 1, the Catholic Church in Taiwan celebrated the annual "Day for Aborigines", the original inhabitants of the island. In a letter by the bishops published this week, the focus is on the people who historically were the first inhabitants of Formosa island.

The aboriginal peoples, divided into dozens of tribes, had a difficult life in the past, suffering attempts at colonization and assimilation. According to 2009 figures there are now about 500 thousand Taiwanese aborigines, who live mostly in the mountains of the island. Language barriers, poor education and unemployment often result in their marginalization.

The letter published by the bishops in Taiwan offers some indications relevant to their situation. Three key points in particular should be emphasized:

  • First, the need "to consolidate the transmission of traditional Aboriginal culture" to current and future generations. This can be done while preserving the language of the different tribes so that children from an early age can learn it and speak it with their families or fellow villagers. The mother tongue marks the identity of people and recalls the bond with the culture, history and values ​​that are handed down from generation to generation. Students use the Aboriginal language outside of school hours and it recalls family ties, the tangible sign of the history of this beautiful island.
  • Particular attention to marriage and the family, as part of the journey of faith and life choices. As John Paul II said: "Marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values" to carefully be protected, because "the modern family like and perhaps more than other institutions, is beset by the many profound and rapid changes in society and culture "(Familiaris Consortio, 1). Rediscovering the original meaning of Aboriginal culture, can help foster a profound reflection on the sacrament of marriage and family values ​​for the younger generations.
  • 3) Finally, alongside the vocation to marriage, the third point that is emphasized is the horizon of cooperation between parishes and dioceses that the aborigines belong to. In this context, the need to encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious as called by Jesus to help in his mission.

Those who live in contact with the natives of Taiwan, can not help but be affected by the love of life and joy that children, youth and adults show in their aboriginal songs and dances passed down from the collective memory of older generations. According to many Catholics "this joy and passion for life is a great sign of God's smile in the world."

There are many attempts to restore value and pride in aboriginal culture in Taiwan. Last winter, an epic film was released about the life of a local hero at the beginning of the twentieth century who sought to defend the inhabitants of the island from foreign conquest. The hero of the film is an aboriginal, masterfully played by a Presbyterian minister of the Atayal tribes', who is also a professional actor. The film lasts more than four hours and is the most lavish film in Taiwan's cinema history. It was first screened in theaters and then repeated on television just last week. It is now on sale on DVD, titled "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq bale". This testifies that the aboriginal tribes are "now back to the fore" in Taiwanese society, because they represent an essential part of the island's history and identity.

 

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