Three days countdown until Taiwan Presidential Elections

Taiwan President Election will he held on March 20, voters will decide between President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - he claims no religious affiliation - and Lien Chan of the Kuomintang (KMT), a Buddhist. Incumbent Vice President Annette Lu is a Buddhist and opposition vice-presidential candidate James Soong of the People First Party (PFP) has not declared a religious affiliation.

Religion is often overlooked in outside reporting on Taiwan's political process. But at least its outward forms of devotion - is an integral part of any successful election campaign. And many voters believe the divinities do attend to mortal political affairs and even reach down a helping hand to worthy candidates.

Taiwan practices freedom of religion, traditional Chinese religions are the dominant faith which include Buddhism, Taoism, and folk beliefs. Taoism is indigenous to China, while Buddhism was introduced from India. Other many imported religions include Islam and Christianity. Religious observances are important to all of them.

When religion collides with elections in Taiwan, a unique culture evolves, one that affects political platforms and campaigns, as well as parliamentary and presidential contenders. In order to gain public support, political figures and election hopefuls will get down on their knees in temples throughout the island regardless of their religious persuasion.

During the first election run in 2000, President Chen Shui-bian knelt down on the ground for 20 minutes with his campaign aides to pray for blessings from above. His prayers seemed to have been answered, and this time around Chen's opponent, Lien Chan and other contenders are paying obeisance.

Just two months ago, during the Chinese new year, believers traditionally flock to shrines, praying for better luck and fortune in the coming year. The election is one most the important topic, they worshipped in temples throughout the island, burning incense, humming prayers and placing offerings.

Religious groups can influence Taiwan politics. The former president Lee Teng-hui is one of Taiwan's most prominent Presbyterians members. Still, He followed custom during his campaign, kowtowing in temples in order to appeal to potential voters even though he was taught never to bow before false gods.

Regardless of their political decisions, all candidates receive positive feedback and applause from religious disciples and common worshippers when paying homage at shrines. When campaigns encounter discord and antagonism, as they often do, most religious followers put the political games aside in the holy sanctums, believing that earthly strife is out of place.

Many Christian Churches held prayer meeting to pray for the newly elected presidential. Rev. Chou Shen-Chu, the representative of Bread of Life Christian Church in Taipei, thought that churches should not intervene or involve in politics, but should produce positive influence in spiritual education aspect; the greater influence is the best.

During the "Religion and Politics Seminar" which was held one month before the election, Rev. Law Rong Guang, one of the speaker said, "God fulfills the complete reign of the earth through Christians, therefore Christians should be the creative minority, show the function of being salt and light, to lead the politics into the righteous road. When the society shows up many campaign slogans and political ideas, how should Church nurture its saints"

Besides the seminar, Professor Chou Keng He from China Evangelical Seminary, Associate Professor Peng Hui En from Tunghai University and some other recognized scholars gave special article discussion on this topic.