From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
TCN: Focus on aboriginals during financial crisis
"Lydia Ma" <email@example.com>
Fri, 13 Feb 2009 17:31:57 +0800
>Taiwan Church News
>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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