President Tsai's Response to Pope Francis' Message for the World Day of Peace 2017
President Tsai sent a letter on January 5 to Pope Francis of the Catholic Church in response to the Papal Message for World Day of Peace 2017.
The following is the full text of the president's letter to the pope:
In the Message entitled “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace,” issued for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2017, Your Holiness appeals to all of humanity, from individuals to nations, to embrace love, practice nonviolence, and work in concerted effort to address the crises facing mankind. I deeply appreciate, and concur wholeheartedly with your sublime and profound Message, which calls for disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons, as well as solutions to regional conflict, terrorism, migration issues, and environmental destruction.
As Your Holiness points out, nonviolence is not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but is typical of many religious traditions. Indeed, this noble ideal is also found in Confucian and Buddhist concepts deeply entrenched in our traditional culture. Confucius said that a gentleman shall dissolve ill will through sincerity and respect and eliminate aggression through benevolence and righteousness, and that a sword shall not be needed at all. This constitutes an excellent example of replacing violence with love and kindness. And according to Buddhist doctrines, a good thought dissolves all evil, signifying that as long as our minds are filled with positive thoughts, many man-made disasters in the world can be avoided.
Taiwan and mainland China were once embroiled in a zero-sum conflict that caused tension in the region and anxiety among our peoples. In contrast, today people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait enjoy stable lives and normal exchanges under peaceful separate governance. We should thus cherish all the more this status quo of hard-won stability. As I declared in my inaugural address in May 2016, the ROC government is staunchly committed to maintaining Taiwan’s democracy and the status quo of peace in the Taiwan Strait.
In October 2016, I stated in the National Day address that maintaining the status quo has a more proactive meaning. With deepening democracy as foundation, we will take proactive and forward-looking measures to promote constructive exchanges and dialogue across the strait, in order to build a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship that endures.
Upholding peace requires ample goodwill and communication. Based on many years of experience in cross-strait negotiations during my political career, I am convinced that military action cannot resolve problems. This is why I proposed four principles for peaceful engagement with mainland China, i.e., our pledges will not change, our goodwill will not change, we will not bow to pressure, and we will not revert to the old path of confrontation. 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.
In pointing to the path taken by Jesus Christ, Your Holiness interprets nonviolence as “active nonviolence”. I profoundly agree. Nonviolence does not mean fear or compromise. The Bible asks disciples to lead by example in being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In this same spirit, the Republic of China serves as a beacon for democracy in Asia. We hope that the freedoms guaranteed by the ROC Constitution, including the freedom of residence and change of residence, as well as religious and personal freedoms, shall also be enjoyed by people in other parts of the world, so that they too may be free of fear from political and religious repression.
Another significance of deepening democracy is to enhance support for the weak and underprivileged. Your Holiness has often expressed concern for women, children, migrants, and the socially and economically disadvantaged – groups that most often fall victim to violence. Since taking office, I have carefully listened to the views expressed by families of victims of injustice, and initiated judicial reform. To address the need for childcare and long-term care for the elderly, as well as security concerns of women and children, we have put forward five major social safety plans covering community care, social order, housing, food safety, and a sustainable pension system.
In the nearly 75 years since the Republic of China and the Holy See established diplomatic relations, we have maintained cordial interactions and close cooperation. Our ever growing friendship is based on common values of democracy, freedom, and human rights. When Vice President Chen Chien-jen led the ROC delegation as my special envoy to the canonization ceremony of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in September 2016, he extended sincere greetings to Your Holiness on behalf of the ROC government and Catholic community. We once again convey our appreciation for the warm response from Your Holiness.
Heeding the Holy See’s appeal for humanitarian assistance, the ROC has provided support in recent years for refugees in Jordan and northern Iraq, Ebola victims in western Africa, and people affected by earthquakes in Italy, Nepal, Japan, and Ecuador. In the future, the Republic of China will continue to stand firmly with the Holy See and assist the Catholic Church in its pastoral work around the world.
We are pleased that at Your Holiness’s behest, the Holy See has established the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which commenced work on this New Year’s Day, and that Your Holiness will personally oversee the provision of assistance to migrants and refugees. In order to express appreciation to new immigrants, the Republic of China now celebrates Migrants Day on December 18, in line with the International Migrants Day observed by the United Nations. Our country’s New Southbound Policy also seeks to enhance cultural and talent exchanges with Australia, New Zealand, and countries in Southeast and South Asia.
Furthermore, our government has revised the Nationality Act and is going to formulate a special law to make it easier for foreign nationals to stay in Taiwan. In addition, the Ministry of Education has added seven Southeast Asian languages to the 2018 school curriculum to facilitate social assimilation by new immigrants. In this age of globalization, Taiwan will continue to keep our doors open and embrace immigrants as our own, so that we may all experience the benefits of diverse cultural and economic exchanges.
As Your Holiness states in the Message for the World Day of Peace, women are often leaders of nonviolent action. As the first female president in the ethnic Chinese world, I aspire to live up to your words as I devote myself to enhancing the wellbeing of the Taiwanese people and creating a new era for cross-strait peace.
In closing, I sincerely hope that Your Holiness’s Message will inspire people worldwide to reflect on the damage violence does to peace. It is my deep belief that your selfless commitment and magnanimous love will lead the way in ending violence and moving humanity toward peace and justice.
In the meantime, please accept, Your Holiness, the assurances of my highest consideration, as well as my best wishes for your good health and the continued prosperity of the Holy See.