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Apr 23rd
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Home Feature Stories Typhoon Morakot Master Cheng Yen Visits Church in Village for Typhoon Survivors

Master Cheng Yen Visits Church in Village for Typhoon Survivors

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Last Saturday Master Cheng Yen visited a new Presbyterian church which the Tzu Chi Foundation has built as part of a new village, the Great Love Village, for the survivors of Typhoon Morakot on August 8/9 last year; the first residents will move in next week. The visit symbolizes the foundation’s commitment to help everyone, regardless of religion, race or nationality.

Next week Tzu Chi foundation will hand over more thann 600 units ahead of the Chinese New Year which falls on February 14. A majority of the residents are not the Han Chinese who account for most of Taiwan’s population but Aborigines, descendants of the original inhabitants of the island. They lived in the mountainous villages worst hit by the typhoon; they were encouraged not to return because the villages too dangerous and vulnerable to future typhoons. So they will move to the Great Love Village, on lower land in Shanlin, on the outskirts of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city.

In planning the new village, the foundation’s architects worked closely with the future residents. They promised them an environment as close as possible to the one they left behind on the mountains. One important part of this life was their religion -- the Aborigines are Christians and belong to different denominations, each with their own church. Aborigines used to live in the fertile plains of central and south Taiwan before Han Chinese and then Japanese drove them into the mountains. There they were converted by foreign Christian missionaries who found them more willing listeners than most Chinese. They became devout Christians and the church a centre of their community life. So the architects decided to recreate in the village the four churches to which the different communities had belonged before, so they could feel at home, with the same congregations. Two churches are finished and will be ready next week.

It was to celebrate the opening of the churches and the common beliefs of all faiths that Master Cheng Yen visited the new Presbyterian church last Saturday. She was greeted by a church choir of the Bunung tribe singing a Tzu Chi song; the members present were very moved. Master Cheng Yen handed over the key of the church and gave red envelope of Wisdom and Blessings to members of the congregation. “I hope that, in the future, the Great Love Village can be a model for the world,” she said. “I also hope that people here will practice the three ‘No’s -- abstention from tobacco, alcohol and betel nut -- and that parents will be a model for their children. Future generations can be a model of good behavior for Taiwan.” She stood below the large crucifix on the wall, with a big smile on her face. A resident said: “Master Cheng Yen’s love and that of Jesus are the same”

One of the residents, Da Hu, said that he had read in Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms that ‘the width of a roof was not as broad as the width of love’: "after I read this, I was even more determined to give my love to everyone,” she said. Another resident, Sun Li-hua, said: “Master, you are like our mother, you are remarkable. The love you bring to our village is the same as that of Jesus, bringing the three ‘no’s – tobacco, alcohol and betel nut. You are promoting culture and tradition, so that the women can learn handicrafts and earn their living and better raise their children.”

The architects of the church made it as similar to the original Presbyterian church in Minzu village, Namasia township, where the Bunung lived before. They worked closely with the elders of the church on the design, using photographs and designs of the original. “We worked according to the exterior of the original,” said architect Guo Shusheng. “It will be a centre of life in this village, which we are building to be a permanent home.”

Seeing their new church, the members felt the generosity of Tzu Chi people and how they were able to help people of another faith. Liu Jinhe, head of Minzu village, said that the foundation had built in accordance with the demands and the opinions of his community. “We will be able to worship here as we did in our old village. The Tzu Chi people have been with us throughout, made the designs and now we see our new homes in front of us.” Church elder Zhang Yizhi said: “the work Tzu Chi has done is of a very high standard. We are very moved with what they have done. It has made the church very happy.”

Master Cheng Yen said that people of all religions would feel at home in their new homes, which were built to last permanently. “We have built the churches according to the faith and designs of each tribe. We are following the same principle as in our international aid, when we built Great Love Villages and Tzu Chi Villages. We respect local culture, religion and design. If people lose their homes on the mountain, we will build them a secure place on the plains, where their children can go to school and they can easily find work. During this time, the mountains can rest and not be developed again. If the hearts of those who have survived the disaster are at ease, then society will be stable. These are stable and permanent homes. The residents need not fear the erosion of land and that, after two or three years, they will have to move house again. This is a place where their body, heart and soul can be at peace.” She said she hoped that the village would be an opportunity for the residents to turn over a new page in their lives and rid themselves of the scourge of alcoholism -- it is common among the Aboriginal people.

In its Great Love villages in Indonesia and Sri Lanka which it built after the southeast Asian tsunami in December 2004, the foundation constructed mosques and temples to meet the needs of the residents. Great Love means love for everyone, whatever their beliefs or religion. In its work every day, the foundation puts this principle into practice; the churches in the Shanlin village are the latest example.

 

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