Fighting the Good Fight: Religion and Democracy Formation in Taiwan
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 pivotal 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 looked at how Taiwan’s religiosity has informed its democracy, and vice-versa; in particular, we looked at how and why certain religious affiliations motivate particular political engagement, and considered why intensely-held, politically-active religious beliefs tend toward passionate pluralism in the Taiwan context, rather than religious conflict. Further, we looked at how this legacy of religious engagement in politics influences contemporary social and political movements in Taiwan.
To do this, the Global Taiwan Institute hosted 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 was 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. We were also privileged to host the Taiwan-based theologian and activist, Wen-Shan Chen, and Presbyterian Church in Taiwan expert Ju-Fang Tseng.