We believe in life before death: the Christian aid movement in Taiwan, 1970-78

Alsford, Niki Joseph paul orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1939-4313 (2018) We believe in life before death: the Christian aid movement in Taiwan, 1970-78. Journal of Historical Archaeology and Anthropological Sciences, 3 (2). pp. 219-227. ISSN 2573-2897

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.15406/jhaas.2018.03.00098


Christian Aid, a faith-based anti-poverty charity based in the UK, origins lie in the reconstruction of Europe following the Second World War. In 1948, the organisation regrouped under the title: Inter-Church Aid and Refugee Service and its focus shifted towards worldwide poverty. The 1970s saw the organisation directly funding over 100 development projects in 40 different countries and by the 1990s Christian Aid was campaigning on global political issues that included (but not limited to) South African apartheid, Stop Climate Chaos, fair trade and trade justice movements. Without representatives overseas, Christian Aid works entirely through local structures, mainly churches and/or voluntary organisations; relying heavily on regional screening of projects by local experts. The collection used in this paper comprises of correspondences, minutes and reports. It draws on primary sources material (in both English and Chinese) that include: the Taroko Mountain Village Development Programme in 1973; the typhoon relief in 1973-74; Leadership and Community Development for East Coast Aborigines in 1972; the Training Centre for Handicapped People (est. 1972-73); Health Education Programme for East Coast
Aborigines (1970-72); Social Service Centre (1970-71); Lotung Student Centre (1974-75); Vehicle repairing courses for tribal people, 1972-76; Aboriginal Agricultural Development Project–1975-76; among others. The paper is framed in the context of civil movements (in particular relief programmes), with the Taiwan indigenous peoples as a representative case
study. Its main contribution is as a historical source; a comparative for present-day civil movements that have their routes in grassroots issues. In the case of Taiwan, much of the literature on the 1970s has tended (and perhaps rightfully so) concentrated on the change in representation at the United Nations Security Council in 1971; the US establishment of diplomatic ties with the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) in 1972; the passing of the Taiwan Relations Act in ‘1979; the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident; and the death of Chiang Kaishek and power transfer to Chiang Ching-kuo in ‘75 and ‘78 respectively. Little is known on social movements and development projects among the indigenous peoples during this ‘decade of change’. By addressing this overlooked aspect of the history of Taiwan civil movements, this paper will greatly contribute to existing knowledge on social movements, rights discourses and citizenship.

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