04/26/2010, 00.00
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Filipino missionaries among the elderly Buddhists, Taoists and Christians in Taiwan

by Santosh Digal
For over 10 years the Filipinos of the Divine Word Missionaries help the elderly of all faiths to come out of loneliness and exclusion, offering them language classes, singing, dancing and Bible study. The courses are also an opportunity for conversion. Last Easter five elderly received baptism.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Restore dignity to the elderly in Taiwan through language lessons, singing, dancing, photography and Bible study. This is the purpose of One World Community Services Center, an institute run by Filipino missionaries of the Divine Word, engaged in providing Christian, Buddhist and Taoist elderly an alternative to exclusion and loneliness for over 10 years. The initiative is also an opportunity to acquaint non-Christian Gospel values and to develop inter-religious dialogue.

Fr. Edgar Bugtong, director of the institute, said: "Our classes help seniors understand their values, their desires and that there is someone who loves them. Through the courses, they learn the necessary mutual aid to combat depression, loneliness and also to renew family ties”.  "For us - adds the priest - teaching these people respect for life and dignity is a way to serve the mission of the Church here in Taiwan."

About 572 elderly people attend the institute and most of them are not Christian. The courses, taught by professional teachers, receive government funds, which allow each student to pay a contribution of about 20 euros per year. Lessons include study of English, Chinese and Japanese, singing, traditional dance and photography. For those who want there is also the opportunity to learn English by studying the texts of the Bible. F r. Edgar says that "at firts many elderly are wary, for fear of having to convert to Christianity, but over time they realize that nobody wants to indoctrinate them with the Christian faith."

For some, the discovery of Christian values through the course, however, led to their conversion and last Easter five elderly received baptism. "In recent years - adds – Fr. Edgar - this was the largest group to have received baptism in our centre. "

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