President Tsai Ing-wen recently sent a letter to Pope Francis of the Catholic Church in response to the Papal Message for World Day of Peace 2018.
The following is the full text of the president's letter to the pope:
Your 2018 World Day of Peace message, "Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace," calls on countries around the world to view the phenomenon of global migration with confidence, and see it not as a threat, but as an opportunity for peace. Your message is a timely statement on the international situation, where the plight of persecuted refugees and migrants makes headlines on a daily basis. I have great respect and admiration for the breadth of vision and inspirational power of your message, and wholeheartedly agree.
As Your Holiness stated, many migrants have fled their homelands in despair, because they have no security, protection, or opportunities to prosper. The people of Taiwan feel deeply for these people, as their plight reflects our own history, a story of immigrants struggling through blood, sweat, toil, and tears.
The earliest inhabitants of Taiwan were Austronesians, and the first wave of large-scale immigration began 300 years ago when people crossed the treacherous Taiwan Strait from the Asian mainland to escape desperate poverty. Another large wave came in 1949, when some two million immigrants were compelled to flee mainland China and came to Taiwan.
Whether they were seeking to escape poverty or war, our forebears struggled together to forge a new destiny on this land. Taiwan is an immigrant society, so the blending of ethnic groups, and ideological differences, are inevitable. Yet we have made a difficult transition, and become a free and democratic society that is a model for the Chinese-speaking world.
By virtue of our democratic institutions, divergent groups now have freedom of expression, and their religious liberty, personal safety, and other basic human rights are assured. For the people of Taiwan, these are precious assets, shared in common.
Based on this firm foundation of democratic values, Taiwan has embraced Your Holiness' call for a spirit of compassion towards our own immigrants. Taiwan is currently home to some 600,000 blue-collar immigrants, and 500,000 foreign spouses, most hailing from Southeast Asia. We see them as an infusion of new strength and a force for cultural diversity, and have formulated our New Southbound Policy to build bridges that strengthen trade and cultural exchanges with Southeast Asian nations. To help these immigrants acculturate, courses in their mother tongues will also be offered as elective courses in our educational system beginning in 2019.
I greatly admire Your Holiness' concern for the plight of refugees, and your visits to Jordan, Greece, Myanmar and Bangladesh. In response to your call for compassion, Taiwan has actively aided international refugees, providing long-term support through various means for Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and Burmese refugee camps in Thailand.
The year 2018 will mark the 76th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and the Republic of China (Taiwan). At our 2017 National Day celebration, Father Brendan O'Connell led us in singing our national anthem. This was a significant event, because after our Nationality Act was revised, Father O'Connell was the first foreign national to become an ROC citizen without giving up his original nationality. During the ceremony, I thanked him for over a half-century of selfless service on behalf of a grateful nation, and reiterated that Taiwan will continue to embrace the world with open arms.
Throughout the world, ethnic pluralism and cultural integration have become advantages for social development. To be strong and prosperous, a nation must be inclusive and embrace differences. I sincerely hope that your World Day of Peace message will increase awareness, and lead to global action that relieves the misery of immigrants and refugees throughout the world.
In the meantime, please accept, Your Holiness, the assurances of my highest consideration, as well as my best wishes for your good health as you continue your fine work on behalf of the Holy See.