Ten Seconds for Taiwan

Prayer Mobilization for the Working Class of Taiwan

Who are the working class of Taiwan?

The Taiwanese working class are an unreached people group on the island of Taiwan. They comprise 60-70% of the population, but are less than 0.5% Christian. Because of the spiritual climate among the working class, we are convinced that only a focused effort of prayer will open up their hearts to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. To that end, our goal is to raise 50,000 pray partners world wide who will regularly pray for the working class Taiwanese.

Religion in Taiwan is a mixture of folk religion and traditional Chinese religion. Folk religion in Taiwan may be described as animistic, polytheistic and syncretistic. It is animistic in the sense that Taiwanese people firmly believe that spiritual forces have power over their daily lives. It is polytheistic in that the people believe in and worship multiple gods. It is syncretistic in that Taiwanese have blended many varied and, at times, contradictory religions and folk-beliefs. At times, the boundaries between belief systems are lost. There is also an openness to incorporating new ideas and thoughts.

Traditional Chinese religion is a combination of ancestor worship, Taoism, and Buddhism. Although each religion has its own deities and teachings, they are often mixed so thoroughly that it becomes impossible to determine what is Taoist and what is Buddhist. The Taiwan folk deity, Matsu (Goddess of the Sea) and the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Kuanyin, are frequently worshipped in the same temple. This reveals the syncretistic character of Chinese religion, which can accommodate seemingly contradictory beliefs simultaneously. More than 16,000 registered temples cater to the spiritual needs of Taiwan's people. In fact, Taiwan has more temples per capita than any other country in the world.

The Taiwanese working class also have an involved belief in ghosts. They believe that every person who dies becomes a ghost. There are happy ghosts and hungry ghosts. Happy ghosts are those who are "fed" or worshipped with offerings of incense, food, and "spirit money". Hungry ghosts, conversely, are those who are not worshipped. Hungry ghosts will bring havoc upon an individual or family in the form of sickness, family relationship trouble, or financial loss. These hungry ghosts are often believed to be deceased family members (ancestors) who are not being worshipped properly or those who have died under tragic circumstances, such as drowning.

No one wants to be a hungry ghost. Therefore, ancestor worship has two main purposes. One is to ensure that one's ancestors do not bring havoc on one's life. The other is to set a strong example to one's own children to worship their parents after their death. As a result, worship of ancestors is considered extremely important. So important, in fact, that children (especially the oldest son) are told by their parents not to become Christians because then "you will not be able to worship me after I am dead, and I will become a hungry ghost".

To accomplish ancestor worship, each house contains a shelf with an ancestral tablet on it listing the names of the deceased ancestors. Offerings are placed in front of this shelf. In addition to the ancestral tablet, this shelf contains the family god or gods. Worship of gods is slightly different from that of ancestors. Essentially, Taiwanese are trying to appease ghosts/ancestors and trying to make a deal with gods. This "deal" is generally in the form that a person provides a god with worship (incense and food like ancestor worship) in exchange for protection, assistance, or blessing. The most desired type of blessing is for money. More powerful gods may be worshipped at temples. The most commonly worshipped are Tho-ti-kong, God of the Earth, and Matsu, Goddess of the Sea.

History and Society
The Taiwanese Hokkien speaking people make up the majority of the population of Taiwan. They trace their roots back to the Fujian province of Mainland China and are part of the 49 million Hokkien speaking Chinese people worldwide.

The early years of the 13
th century saw massive immigration of people from the Fujian province into Taiwan. These immigrants drove the existing inhabitants of Taiwan into the mountain areas to become the various tribal groups found in Taiwan today.

1623-1664 saw the Dutch occupation of parts of Taiwan. In 1683, Taiwan, for the first time, became an integral part of the Chinese Empire. It was considered to be a county of Fujian Province.

In 1895, after the defeat of the Chinese armies by the Japanese in Korea, the treaty of Shimonoseki ceded Taiwan to the Japanese. Taiwan was ruled by Japan for the next 50 years. In 1945, Taiwan returned to Chinese rule as the Kuominting Party, fleeing Mao's Communist Party on the mainland, landed on Taiwan.

In 1987, martial law was lifted and in 1996, Taiwan elected its first democratically elected president. The second presidential election in 2000 resulted in the ruling Kuomintang Party losing power for the first time in 54 years to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
Most of the Taiwanese Hokkien speakers are working class. They work in factories, run small shops or restaurants, or offer various services (car repair, hair cutting, taxi driving, etc.). Many have only achieved junior high or high school level education. They work primarily as wage earners rather than in salaried positions. Their earnings are significantly less than those of more highly educated workers.