National prayer breakfast canceled following spat over LGBT remark

10/29/2020 10:22 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, center) at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in 2019 / CNA file photo
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, center) at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in 2019 / CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) The annual National Prayer Breakfast in Taiwan will be canceled this year, the first time in 20 years, following controversy over a recent social media post by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) supporting the LGBT community.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, the event's preparatory committee said in order to prevent further disputes and misunderstandings between members, the annual prayer meeting will not be held this Friday.

The National Breakfast Prayer in Taiwan, which has been held since 2001, is jointly organized by different Christian church denominations and organizations in the country.

Themed "Love without borders," this year's breakfast prayer was supposed to take place at the Miracle Top Church's Mehas Complex Hall in Xindian District, New Taipei.

However, on Wednesday, the group sent a letter to the Presidential Office, requesting that an envoy be sent to attend the event on behalf of the president because the committee members do not support Tsai's stance on LGBT issues and were also not happy about a remark she made over the gay pride parade.

The dispute arose after Tsai posted a message on her Facebook page on Oct. 25 welcoming everyone to celebrate the 18th annual LGBT Pride parade, the largest gay rights event in Asia, which last year drew over 200,000 participants from around the world.

Following the group's letter, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), which is part of the preparatory committee, issued a separate statement Thursday morning, saying the national prayer breakfast without the head of state in attendance runs counter to its purpose.

In the past, Taiwan's president has always spoken at the annual event, said the PCT, which supported Tsai's participation at this year's breakfast prayer in spite of the controversy over her Facebook post.

On Thursday afternoon, Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said President Tsai "respectfully declined" to attend the Friday breakfast meeting, noting that she does not want to see people quarrel over the matter after a majority of committee members asked the president to not attend.

Following Chang's remarks, the preparatory committee issued a statement Thursday evening calling off the event.

(By Wu Hsin-yun, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Ko Lin)

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