Nov. 14: Religion & Democracy Formation in Taiwan

Nov. 14: Religion & Democracy Formation in Taiwan

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Taiwan’s vibrant democracy boasts a uniquely robust, diverse, and active religious sector, whose political engagement has shaped Taiwan’s identity as a modern, pluralist, democratic state. From the pivotol role played by Taiwan’s Presbyterian Church in resisting martial law, to contemporary environmental protest movements that invoke the goddess Mazu, religiously-inspired activism has never been far from the political arena in Taiwan. During this panel, we will look at how Taiwan’s religiosity has informed its democracy, and vice-versa; in particular, we will look at how and why certain religious affiliations motivate particular political engagement, and consider why intensely-held, politically-active religious beliefs tend toward passionate pluralism in the Taiwan context, rather than religious conflict. Further, we will look at how this legacy of religious engagement in politics influences contemporary social and political movements in Taiwan.

To do this, the Global Taiwan Institute is hosting the event Fighting the Good Fight: Religion and Democracy Formation in Taiwan on November 14, as part of its Civil Society and Democracy series, partially funded by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. GTI is happy to be joined for this panel by Michael J. Fonte, whose early presence as a missionary in Taiwan and continuing engagement with Taiwan’s democracy gives him special insight into our topic, and by Dr. Fang-Long Shih of the London School of Economics, an expert on religion, civil society, and the state in Taiwan, with a special focus on religiously-inspired environmental protest.

Doors will open at 11:30. A light lunch will be served, and the event will begin at 12:00. Kindly RSVP by November 13. Please direct questions or concerns to abell@globaltaiwan.org.

**Media: Please contact Anna Scott Bell at abell@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.


Wen-Shan Hannah Chen (文珊 陳) is a feminist activist, a lay contextual theologian, and an assistant professor of department of religious studies in Yu-shan Seminary. She used to be the chief editor of TAO, the only biomothly journal of contextual theology in Taiwan, and had been one of the co-host committee of CATS (Conference of Asian Theologians). On behalf of Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, she attended many ecumenical conferences and mission consultations, such as the first GIT (global institute of theology) in 2004. Her publications covers different areas, like applied ethics, gender studies, disabilities studies, the abolition of death penalty, restorative justice, and human rights. Recently the rise of the religious right and the same sex marriage become her main focus.

Michael J. Fonte is director of the Democratic Progressive Party Mission in the US, where he facilitates engagement between Taiwan’s DPP and policymakers in Washington. But his connection to Taiwan goes back to 1967-70 when he was a Catholic missionary working in central Taiwan. Before joining the DPP Mission as liason in 2002, he was senior policy analyst at the Formosan Association for Public Affairs. At FAPA, he was responsible for tracking U.S. policy toward Taiwan, Taiwan security issues, and developments in Taiwanese political affairs, and for producing opinion pieces, journal articles, and a member newsletter on these questions. He also lobbied the US Senate on Taiwan-related concerns. From 1993-1999, Mr. Fonte served as executive director of the Council for a Livable World Education Fund, and before that as foreign policy analyst and consultant for various international groups and clients. With a M.Th. in theology from the Maryknoll Seminary and a M.A. in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan, Mr. Fonte’s resume includes time as both an educator and journalist.

Dr Fang-long Shih specialises in the anthropology of Chinese religions with a focus on the issues of the family, gender, nationalism and democracy. Her publications include Gazetteer of Local Religion in I-Lan County (2003), Re-Writing Culture in Taiwan (co-editor, 2009), “Generating power in Taiwan: nuclear, political and religious power” (2012), and “Taiwanisation under god Nazha: the geopolitics of religious performance in 21th Century Taiwan” (2015); “Forget Dawkins: Notes toward an Ethnography of Religious Belief and Doubt” (co-author; 2017). She contributed chapters on “Women, religions, and feminisms” for the New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion (2016), and on “Reading gender and religion in East Asia: family formations and cultural transformations” for the Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia (2014).

Dr Shih has been Research Fellow at Asia Research Centre in London School of Economics and Political Science (2003–2015), and serves as Co-Director of the LSE Taiwan Research Programme since 2009. She launched the continuing seminar series Taiwan in Comparative Perspective in 2006, and Chinese Worlds in Comparative e Perspective in 2016. In 2007 she established a journal Taiwan in Comparative Perspective, serving as editor. This was the first journal of its kind. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Taiwan Institute (2016–); the Board of Directors of the American Association for Chinese Studies (2016–), and previously on the Committees of the North American Taiwan Studies Association (2013–2015), and of the European Association for Taiwan Studies (2006–2007).

Dr. Ju-Fang Tseng received her PhD from the Catholic University of America, where she completed a doctoral dissertation on the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, titled, “Han Christian Conversion in Taiwan: a Study of Presbyterian Converts from Traditional Chinese Religions.” She is an adjunct professor at Nazarene Bible College, alongside her work in the NGO sector. In addition to religious studies, she has a background in journalism and marketing, and has worked for the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. She received her MA and her BA from Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

Eventbrite - Fighting the Good Fight: Religion and Democracy Formation in Taiwan


This is the final public seminar of the year in the Civil Society and Democracy series, partially funded by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Throughout the year, these seminars have focused on various topics relating to Taiwan’s democracy and human rights. The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy is a non-profit, non-partisan organization and is the first national democracy assistance foundation to be established in Asia, and is devoted to strengthening democracy and human rights in Taiwan and abroad.