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Dance of the captives: Taiwan’s ‘god parades’

MEINUNG, Taiwan (BP)–Parades for the Hakka people in Taiwan are not always joyful occasions of colorful costumes and celebration, as International Mission Board missionaries recently saw firsthand.

Walking in front of a temple entrance one weekend, missionary Denise Taylor* happened upon a group of young boys preparing for a typical “god parade.”

The boys, some as young as 8 years old, applied thick, pasty paint to their young faces. Using deep black strokes, the boys transformed their faces into grotesque masks of anger and fear. They then ran to join the energetic dancing of the parade as it wound through the city streets.

The god parades are performed to show the power of idols to protect families and businesses, Thrush said. The men who carry the idols during the parade turn to face each home where someone has offered sacrifices for the spirits. The family members bow before the idol to show they are subservient, hoping to gain the idol’s favor and protection.

Besides carrying idols and dancing, young boys join the parades to re-enact some of the mythological exploits of the gods. Some boys even cut themselves in order to show the power their idol gives over pain.

“They’ll dance and perform in the streets in front of idols until a power greater than they are takes over,” Thrush said. “They are drawn to it, compelled to do what they do, powerless to resist. They are in awe of this power — and terrified by it.”

Of the almost 5 million Hakka in Taiwan, less than 10,000 profess faith in Christ. Most practice a religion that combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, ancestor worship and Chinese folk religion.

“They don’t know freedom,” she said. “They know fear. And they have no hope. Please pray that the captives would be set free.”
*Name changed for security concerns.
— Learn more about work among the Hakka of Taiwan — http://www.byhisgrace.com/hakkaharvest
— Search prayer requests for the Hakka of Taiwan — www.imb.org/CompassionNet/peoplegrps.asp
— Testimony: Carrying a prayerwalking cross in Taiwan — www.imb.org/mfliers/august/default.htm
— Explore opportunities for overseas service —
— Taiwan country information, map —

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  • Brittany Jarvis