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American priest recalls life's journey to northern Taiwan

2012/04/18 21:06:20

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) Since the 1980s, Sum Lin, an American priest of Chinese descent who spent years in Vietnam, has provided shelter for elderly people and immigrants from Southeast Asia in northern Taiwan's Taoyuan County.

Lin, 79, who has been working at the Saint Anthony Church since 1998, was last year awarded permanent residency by the National Immigration Agency in recognition of his decades of service to the people of Taiwan.

Talking of his impressions of Taiwan in a recent interview, Lin said he has been to many places in his life, but Taiwan is the only country where he has not noticed any racism.

"Taiwanese people are kind and friendly and willing to make contributions to charities," he said, adding that his church is a "soul harbor" for new immigrants and elderly people as they share similar memories and background to him.

The church has become a popular meeting place for foreign spouses and Taiwan veterans because they can share their memories of war and earlier life experiences in both Chinese and Vietnamese, said Lin, who was born in Cambodia and spent many years drifting in Southeast Asia due to political unrest in the region decades ago.

Before moving to Taiwan, Lin worked as a priest in Vietnam, where he was allegedly became a target for assassination by the government after he refused to let his church be used to promote the Communist Party during the Vietnam War.

As the conflict drew to a close, the French-speaking Lin traveled via a refugee camp in Thailand to New York, where he eventually obtained an American passport and met a group of Taiwanese nuns who inspired him to travel to the island.

Taiwan is the last stop in his drifting life, Lin said, adding that he wishes to help elderly and socially marginalized people generate positive energy through the power of religion.

During his time in Taiwan, Lin has helped raise over NT$6 million (US$203,320) to help people in need and rebuild churches, which were damaged by a serious earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people in 1999.

(By Chiu Chun-chin and Maia Huang)