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September 23, 2017

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Religious freedom walks hand in hand with freedom of speech

Over the last 30 years, Taiwan has embraced democracy while upholding religious pluralism and tolerance toward all beliefs, including Islam, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism.

Local authorities not only respect religious freedoms under the Republic of China's (R.O.C.) Constitution, but also as a matter of practice. Earlier this month, for instance, thousands of believers attended a celebration of the Buddha's Birthday held in front of the Presidential Office (總統府) and the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂).

The two separate events, which marked the birthday of Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism and the Supreme Buddha in most Buddhist traditions, were organized by various religious organizations, including the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會), Fo Guang Shan Monastery (佛光山寺) and the Buddha's Light International Association (國際佛光會). Since 1999, the date has been a national holiday in Taiwan that falls on the second Sunday in May and coincides with Mother's Day.

Like most developed countries, Taiwan has come to accept religious freedom as a basic human right, based on Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

Though not a member state of the United Nations, the R.O.C. is a country that allows its residents to freely practice religion without needing to worry about religious oppression. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, beliefs or practices in Taiwan in 2011.

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