CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 July 2019

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Taiwan president makes pledge to the pope

TAIPEI (SE): “As Your Holiness states in the Message for World Day of Peace, women are often leaders in nonviolent action,” the first female head of state in the ethnic Chinese world, Tsai Ing-wen, from Taiwan, says in a letter to Pope Francis dated January 5.

Tsai tells the pope that she is devoted to enhancing the wellbeing of the people of her domain and, significantly, creating a new era for cross-strait peace between Taiwan and mainland China.

In a letter addressing Pope Francis’ message on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace, Tsai points out that it is now 75 years since the Republic of China first established diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

She says that the ever growing friendship between the two is based on the common values of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Tsai also stresses that her land is prepared to open its arms to the stranger, which it has demonstrated in the past by supporting the Vatican outreach to refugees and will, in addition, make it easier for foreign nationals to live, be educated and prosper in Taiwan.

She attributes the ability of her government to achieve this to its deepening democracy, which she describes as being the key to delivering human rights and supporting in a realistic manner those who struggle at the bottom of the economic pile.

But at the very heart of her letter, she points out that the values that Pope Francis espouses of nonviolence are also found in the legacy of Chinese culture, citing the writings of Confucius and Buddhist teaching as examples.

Tsai quotes Confucius as saying that a gentleman shall dissolve ill through sincerity and respect, without aggression, so the sword should never be needed, and Buddhism as teaching that good thoughts dissolve all evil.

Tsai then points to what she describes as recently improved relations with Beijing, though some say they sit on a shaky foundation, saying that while in a bygone era relations were characterised by zero-sum conflict, today both sides enjoy stable and normal exchanges.

“We should thus cherish all the more this status quo of hard-won stability,” she tells Pope Francis.

Then noting the pope’s call to be proactive in promoting nonviolence, Tsai says that she will be proactive in promoting dialogue across the strait in order to build a peaceful relationship.

“Upholding peace requires ample good will and communication… I am convinced that military action cannot solve problems,” she stresses, adding that Taiwan will follow a path of keeping its pledges and holding to its good will, while not bowing to pressure or reverting to the old path of confrontation.

Then in what seems to be the bottom line of her 1,100 words she says, “I urge the governing party across the strait, together with the governing party in Taiwan, to set aside the baggage of history and engage in positive dialogue.”

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