From the Worldwide Faith News archives

TCN: Focus on aboriginals during financial crisis

From "Lydia Ma" <>
Date Fri, 13 Feb 2009 17:31:57 +0800

>Taiwan Church News

>2972 Edition

>February 9~15, 2009

>Focus on aboriginals during financial crisis

>Reported by Chen Wei-jien, Chen Yi-shuan

>Written by Lydia Ma

The recent global financial crisis forced many companies in  Taiwan’s industrial and technology centers to lay off employees or  impose mandatory furloughs, resulting in staggering unemployment levels  throughout Taiwan, especially in the manufacturing and technology  sectors.

Because of furloughs, many aboriginals who left home to work in the city  are now returning to their tribal homes in droves. The plight of  aboriginals amid the worst unemployment crisis in 30 years and the  impact of the financial crisis on aboriginals merit draw attention  because these people are often the ones least likely to find employment.

>Report from aboriginal churches

PCT Indigenous Ministry Committee Chair Pastor Sudu Tada pointed out  that unemployment has been a problem among aboriginals ever since Taiwan  allowed foreign laborers to come and work in the country. Now that the  economy is so bad and job vacancies are so few, many young and returning  aboriginals who lost their jobs are spending their time drinking. Though  churches are trying to help these young people get new jobs, what  churches can accomplish is limited.

Tada added that many of these young aboriginals do not even know the  boundaries of their family land, much less how to engage in agriculture  or farming. The art of farming has also become more complex and highly  refined in recent years with the advent of new technologies, making  menial work the only thing jobless aboriginals can do.

Tada does not think aboriginals will starve to death while living in  tribal areas, but if an aboriginal family has children who go to school,  it will surely run out of cash. As of now, almost every reserve has  children who stopped going to school to take up odd jobs and many  concerned churches are trying to find jobs for aboriginal adults.

Tada feel somewhat powerless to help aboriginals because a lot of  returning aboriginals have given up their faith altogether and no longer  go to church. Some aboriginals who went to other church denominations  while living in the city are so used to the spiritual practices of other  denominations that they no longer want to come back to Presbyterian  churches. Unemployment coupled with lack of spiritual support  significantly worsens drinking problems among aboriginals.

According to Tsou District Pastor Pasu’e Yasiyungu, not many Tsou  aboriginals have ventured to urban areas for employment, so the  financial crisis has not hit the area as hard as other places. However,  some Tsou aboriginals work at Dannayiku Scenic Park and the amount of  ticket sales have dropped significantly, causing 20 people to be  laid-off.

Furthermore, since part of proceeds from ticket sales go toward  supporting a children scholarship and a seniors stipend, these programs  have been canceled for now. Seniors who depend on these stipends to  survive will be severely affected.

>Report from urban aboriginals

For aboriginals who continue to reside in the city, South Bunun Urban  Aboriginal Missions Ministries Director Pastor Lituan predicts a loss or  decrease of income will definitely be felt by aboriginals because living  in the city involves some regular expenses such as rent, but urban  aboriginals now have less income to pay for these flat living expenses.

Some city aboriginals will be affected and their jobs will be on the  line when a sudden halt of ongoing work projects start to spread as  companies go bankrupt or cancel projects to reduce spending.

Though government agencies have opened up part-time employment  opportunities (such as menial jobs) for those who have lost their jobs,  Pastor Chen Shin-liang is convinced that strategies such as these will  only offer temporary relief instead of long-term solutions. Pastor Chen,  who pastors a church in Changhua where 90% of church members are  aboriginals, says he would rather see the government focus on boosting  jobs related to renewing basic infrastructure because this will also  benefit the general public once the economy recovers.

>Surviving the years of famine

How can churches help believers get through the current crisis? Pastor  Chen advises church leaders to focus on the following teachings:

Spend conservatively: Frugality is an important guideline when income is  low and uncertain. Aboriginals who are used to drinking alcohol and  chewing betel nut should think twice before buying more of these  products and cut down on unnecessary consumption.

Spend differently: Before buying an item, think long and hard whether it  is a necessity. In terms of entertainment, consider mountain climbing or  public parks because they are often less expensive alternatives.

Promote compulsory saving: The story of Joseph in the Bible is a good  model because Joseph diligently saved Egypt’s resources during the  seven years of plenty in anticipation for the seven years of famine that  were coming. Since the global economy goes through cycles, building a  habit of saving money when things are going well can ease our finances  when the economy goes south.

Be a smart guarantor: Pastor Chen mentioned that aboriginals are very  willing to become guarantors for others due to their easy-going and  generous personality, but this often lands them in trouble and destroys  their families and finances in times of national financial crises on top  of creating other social problems. During Sunday sermons, Chen often  reminds listeners to beware of being guarantors.

Since handling finances is an important issue for families, Chen advises  Christians to support each other in times of financial turmoil. Churches  should especially reach out to families with members who lost their jobs  during the crisis. For example, Chen’s church offers employment  referral services to help members find employment again.

Chen is also planning to start a new ministry in Changhua Presbytery  that will serve as a human resource database for church members who are  looking to hire employees or looking for employment. “Christians  taking care of one another is a tangible way of putting love into  action,” he says. The database will allow Christian employers and  employees to find one another.


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