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2024/3/7
Maljavar: An Indigenous Round Table Seminar on the Gospel vs Cultures

Taiwan Church News

3756 Edition

February 19 ~ 25, 2024

Weekly Topical

Maljavar: An Indigenous Round Table Seminar on the Gospel vs Cultures

Reported by Lin Wan-ting from Pingtung

In recent years, churches have always enthusiastically discussed topics such as “gospel vs culture” and “faith vs politics”. In order to create opportunities for a cross-generational dialogue, Heizang Church of Payuan Presbytery held the first round table seminar, entitled as “Maljavar (Listen and Speak): An Indigenous Round Table Seminar on the Gospel vs Cultures” on February 6th.

Many renowned indigenous scholars and pastors were invited to deliver their thoughts in the seminar, including Mr Valagas Gadeljeman, director of Indigenous Students Resource Center of I-Shou University; Rev Masegeseg Zengrur Gadu, emeritus professor of NDHU College of Indigenous Studies; Prof Ljegay Rupeljengan, Department of Earth Sciences, National Cheng Kung University; Rev Ljegean Tudalimaw, general secretary of the PCT Payuan Presbytery. The seminar attracted many church youth, pastors, elders and laity persons across indigenous ethnos to listen ad speak.

In his lecture, Mr Valagas Gadeljeman reflected on how church believers and tribal people view current Paiwan marriage culture. He pointed out that, due to diverse factors, like cognitive differences of traditional power hierarchies, insufficient knowledge of family genealogy and its subsequent relationships, religious intervention of church perspectives, the history of indigenous migration, and etc., made people casting doubts about traditional indigenous weddings rituals which naturally owns the irreplaceable aesthetics of indigenous culture. He encouraged new generation of the indigenous to leave their slumber and have more understanding about own identity, family and culture.

Rev emeritus prof Masegeseg Zengrur Gadu further explained cultural significance in the indigenous daily lives, for example: wearing a bitter-apple-wreath, setting up a swing, lifting a sedan chair, as well as the surname should be included when writing a person’s name, as all these things can be used to trace and learn their kinship relationships among traditional cultural fields, and help clarify the interactions between social class and power. He also introduced the Payuan’s cosmology, emphasizing that all things related to power hierarchies should be based on the ideal of “love.”

When the issue of “the communion of saints”, specified Apostles’ Creed, was raised in the Q&A, such as whether it is appropriate to talk to a deceased family member because you miss them very much, Rev emeritus prof Masegeseg Zengrur Gadu explained that as the Payuan people bury the deceased indoors, all the things of culture between heaven and earth is deemed occurs inside house.

Therefore, for the Payuan people, burning incense and pouring wine are ways of communicating with heaven and earth. The Payuan people regard the coffin as a boat to send the deceased “home.” This is also similar to with the thoughts of the Austronesian people. He straightly indicated that this pious attitude to heaven and earth, and a sincere reverence for life from the bottom heart, can actually find connections and echoes witinh the Bible if we check into the origins of the indigenous cultures.

Also in Q&A session, another young man expressed that he had been raised to attend the church services regularly since he was a child, but he also participated in traditional hunting as an indigenous cultural ritual.

He asked: “Can the Christians participate in the indigenous traditional rituals?” Rev emeritus prof Masegeseg Zengrur Gadu suggested we should go back to a grand narrative of indigenous culture to understand our specific actions or cultural behaviors.

He pointed out that many advocates of indigenous cultural renaissance are not doing wrongs to go astray, but just want to preserve the wonderful ethnic values. What we needed to appreciate is that many values or ideas that need to be restored from the indigenous cultures were actually written in the Bible, he reminded, especially we had to respect God as a ubiquitous “creator”, because only a humble student of indigenous culture could recognize the order and sequence of His extraordinarily divine creations.

Prof Ljegay Rupeljengan delivered his thoughts from the issues, such as how theologians reflect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and what is transitional justice for the indigenous, and used examples to analyze the relationship between the church and society. He specifically remarked that the traditional culture of an indigenous ethnic group has its own specific concerns and contexts which could not be judged naively by modern values. In addition, he stressed that the culture does need to evolve as time and space changes, as the key point is the subject of cultural interpretation lies with the indigenous ethnic group itself, not the outsiders.

As for the church’s concern about the politics, he believed that political participation of the church functioned as both a social practice and an ecclesiastical confession between faith and its practice. The political concerns of the indigenous church is not only a response to the contemporary situation of indigenous peoples, but also an initiative to explain the church’s philosophy to society and make church activities transparently democratic, he remarked, .

Rev Ljegean Tudalimaw discussed with the students on how to view preachers’ political statements. She shared her experiences of being exposed to Taiwan history, women’s theology, and the awakening movement of indigenous rights when she was a young seminary student. All these challenging issues inspired her to explore her indigenous ethnic identity.

After graduation from the seminary, Rev Ljegean Tudalimaw became a pastor and maintained her social concern in an indigenous church with strong and diverse political affiliations. She emphasized that even if you work in the church, you could not just care about church ministries only and turn a blind eye to the suffering of your tribal villagers, because church members could easily see how government policies affect the indigenous society and their daily lives.

Rev Ljegean Tudalimaw analyzed the PCT Confession and the six major aspects of its holistic evangelical ministries. He explicitly stated that faith must be practiced in life, and the believers should be called to care about issues closely related to them. No matter what kind of political ideologies they supported, at least they should have a thought and a stance, so that they would not be slaughtered like a lamb. Finally, Rev Ljegean Tudalimaw hoped that the new generation of the indigenous can work together to build a church that is inclusive and filled with faith, hope and love.

Translated by Peter Wolfe


Submitted by:Taiwan Church Press
 
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