Opening Ceremony Remark
Good morning and Happy 2016 New Year!
On behalf of Taiwan and Taoyuan City, I welcome all of the distinguished leaders coming from 26 countries to meet here for the first Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum. We are more most honored to have the special Envoy of His Holiness Pope Francis from the Holy See with us.
It is my privilege to co-host with so many prestigious institutes from the United States of America as well as from Taiwan. It is also my privilege to host this significant conference in my hometown Taoyuan, namely peaches garden, where I served 3 years as the magistrate from 1997 to 2000. Thank you for the generous hospitality of Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan of Taoyuan City that the Sunrise Golf and Country Club was chosen to be the place for the Forum. As I mentioned last night, this is really a place for the sun to rise. Years ago, a young country girl Tseng Yani was trained here to learn to play golf and eventually ranked No.1 in the LPGA Women’s World Golf, Rankings for 109 consecutive weeks!
Let me express my appreciation for all co-hosts and sponsors, including Lantos Foundation, Freedom House, the Heritage Foundation, and China Aid from the United States, and Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, Taiwan Interfaith Foundation, Taiwan Weixinism, the General Association of Chinese Taoism, I-Kuan Tao, the Presbyterian Church, Catholic Church, and Buddhist groups from Taiwan. We also have several international partners, including International Religious Freedom Roundtable, Religious Liberty Partnership, Stefanus Alliance International, and International Campaign for Tibet. Thank you all for your full support for this Forum. Without you, this Forum would not be possible to be organized.
In these couple of days we come here not to play golf, but to discuss on the significance of religion and how to safeguard religious freedom in the world, and particularly in Asia Pacific.
Nearly everyone is born religious. From womb to tomb where life begins and ends, the journey is a miracle, also is a puzzle. It is the almighty that creates the universe and cultivates the creatures, be it the God or the Buddha, or Allah. All the religions teach people right from wrong and good from bad. Love, peace and justice are the core values that all the religions cherish and preach.
We human beings as one of the creatures, are the passengers, not the owner of the earth. We own nothing but our soul. We shall respect the heaven, cherish the earth and care for one another. Not to exploit, nor to suppress. That’s the way we co-exist with the universe and the human family. Regretfully, throughout the entire human history, men bully women, the rich mistreat the poor, and the big countries conquer the smaller. Hatred prevails love, and war and confrontation burst out anytime everywhere. Currently terrorism has become a global nightmare and the flood of refugees a big headache.
As you are aware of, 2 days before our New Year’s Day, a Magnitude 6.4 earthquake destroyed buildings and deprived of 116 lives, with 1000 casualties. We have gone through a miserable holidays in fact. Life or death, tears and joy, every day we learn of the progress of rescue work. Our heart is broken but our love for compatriots is keen and genuine. We pray for those who are buried under the debris. We pray for the families who suffered from the earthquake.
In fact, earthquake is no stranger to Taiwan. Every year we also suffer from typhoons and other disasters. But Taiwan survives and makes progress. In fact, Taiwan is a kingdom of religion, with 28 different regions co-existing in harmony. Taiwanese people are humble, hardworking, and good-hearted.
Everybody needs a religion. Religion is a teacher to teach us right and wrong. Religion is a mirror to reflect our beauty and ugliness. Religion is also a laundry machine for our soul, to clean up our guilty, and sin.
More fundamentally, everybody needs to be free to choose his own faith. No one can force others to choose their beliefs, and no one can be punished for his belief. Religion is as important as the air and water to life. And so is religious freedom to the soul. Religious freedom is an inalienable human right protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Any infringement upon religious freedom shall be condemned and prevented. The goal for the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum is to discuss how to initiate a strategic mechanism so that religious freedom in Asia Pacific and in other places on earth can be effectively enhanced.
Taiwan used to suffer from 38 years of Martial Law regime. Human rights had been widely infringed upon and freedom fighters have been sacrificed under suppression, including abuses of religious activities. Many of the freedom fighters and religious leaders were prosecuted and jailed. I myself was one of them. I fought for women’s rights, as well as for democracy. For a speech of 20 minutes delivered to commemorate the 1979 Human Rights Day, I was sentenced to 12 years but actually was imprisoned for 1933 days. It took Taiwan 38 years to install democracy. It took us even longer, 45 years since I launched the Feminist movement in the 1970s, to elect the first woman president last month. Rome was not built in one day. What Taiwan has achieved today can be achieved in any other places. Taiwan can become the beacon for liberty and democracy. Taiwan in fact, is one of the best player of soft power.
Freedom is not free. You have to pay the price first. Freedom is something that you don't cherish it much before it is taken away. How are we going to work out an effective mechanism to enhance the significance of religion? How are we going to set up a network to safeguard religious freedom in Asia Pacific, and in other parts of the world? How can Taiwan help light up religious freedom? How can Taiwan’s soft power share and enrich the 21st century?
Let’s take advantage of this special Forum to share our vision and wisdom, our experiences and determination together. May I wish the success of the Forum and the pleasure of your stay!
Lu Hsiu-lien Annette