Erenlai - Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁)
Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁)

Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁)

Board member of the Taipei Ricci Isntitute. Former Publisher of Renlai Magazine. 

Friday, 03 May 2013 13:29

Focus Response: Father Jacques Duraud, SJ on 'My God?'

Father Jacques Duraud made this reflection on his own faith in response to the eRenlai focus on faith and god in April this year. How do you conceive of faith and god, or even of a world without belief? Feel free to share with us!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012 16:07

The Olive

There are many ways to tell a story. The concept for this one starts from the shelves of a supermarket, from a can of stuffed olives. This snack that makes a drink with friends more enjoyable is associated in the mind of the story teller with the country of our hero.

How trivial a beginning for a story that will bring on stage Saint Ignatius of Loyola!

Some time ago I asked a friend to design a poster for Saint Ignatius Day. He had the very good idea to draw the outline of a medieval knight and inside Jesus welcoming Ignatius still wearing his helmet as to show that his frame of mind was still the one of a knight. Leaving the vanities of the world, at the junction of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, taking seriously the call of the Lord, Ignatius is still a knight. “The Olive” tells us the story of a knight with big dreams, not only a dreamer but a fighter that against all odds decided to battle the French when the outcome of the fight was a certain defeat for the Spaniards. The bitter defeat left deep scars in our hero and that was the beginning of another story. All the vanities of our medieval knight were left behind on his sick bed. The closed world of the Middle Ages then vanished and Ignatius was thrown into spiritual warfare. In this other world, interior and spiritual, in this new era of culture with all the discoveries and openings of the Renaissance, Ignatius with the same singleness found his way. He was now led by God on a pilgrimage that brought him to the foundation of the Jesuit order. And the story is still going on. Let “The Olive” tell us what happened.

An animation written, produced and narrated by Jason Kapell of the Fairfield University Media Center.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:25

Darkness in the City of Light

Let’s go beyond the glamour of Paris. Last summer was for me the occasion to rediscover the splendour of the French capital and to meet Françoise Gardes who cares for those travelers without return tickets who run aground on the banks of the river Seine with nothing in their pockets but the hope of asylum.

Friday, 25 February 2011 11:46



Wednesday, 23 February 2011 19:43

A laowai voyeur at the flower expo: Fragrant emotions

I did not pay much attention a few months ago to the controversy in the media about the price tag of this International Flower Exposition (台北國際花卉博覽會).

Thursday, 20 January 2011 17:23



Tuesday, 28 December 2010 18:16

December in Yangjuan

I went to Yangjuan beginning of December 2010. During these 10 years I have been more or less10 times to this little village…

This time my purpose was to see the state of the school we help to start in 2000. The school does not need outside subsidies any more. Now schooling is free and the government is also paying for textbooks. But there is at least one reason to worry: this semester the school has only 6 certified teachers. According to the number of students the school should be entitled to get 11 certified teachers, but the local government or the bureau of education is always short of personnel. Consequently the gap is filled with substitute teachers. They receive a monthly salary of only RMB 600 which is not high (RMB1100 for a unqualified work, construction work for example, is not considered that much). Nothing surprising that a there is a great turnover of substitute teachers. How to help in the management of the school is another question that none of us presently can answer properly. There is an informal network of friends that may provide some ideas. It seems to me that we cannot only focus on the management of the school. From the beginning, ten years ago, we came with this idea that the school could become a center for local development. The school itself has its own goals but the shelter it provides every summer has been instrumental for working on the development of this small place.

In 2001 we started to bring Taiwanese students for animation and tutoring. In 2001 and 2002 two nurses and two medical students came to make a health survey of the children. After the health survey we started “waterworks” in order to provide cleaner water. The idea of a French engineer during a trip to Yangjuan has been at the origin of this endeavor. He thought it could be possible to build a dam along the river feeding a small power plant. That idea brought to Yangjuan the following years a team of “Hydraulic without borders”, an organization founded by a retired hydraulic engineer, Mr Wang, born in Canton but brought up and educated in France. Our first practical realization was to dig a well. That was a failure and a good example. A failure because the well dig during summer (when underground water is at its highest level) became dry three months after. It was a good example because we told the people that the water from the well was much cleaner and healthier than the water from the river. Thereafter, especially in lower locations of the village, people dig wells in their courtyards to keep water supply at hand and alleviate the chores of fetching water from the river (most of the time this burden is allotted to women and children).

duraud_yangjuan_dec_3The next step was very interesting. One year after digging the well we were ready to dig another one the following summer. We were served a flat refusal. People from the 3rd brigade belonging to a “lower class” in the “old Yi society” asked us if it could be possible to help them in order to fetch water more easily. The fact that the initiative came from them is noteworthy. After discussion we decided to build a very simple network of water supply serving about twenty households. Unfortunately this network is less efficient during the “dry season”, but it was successful enough to inspire later the 6th brigade who asked for help in turn. This new water network has not been a success either for the same reasons but led the people of the whole village to look for a more satisfactory solution.

During these years my back and forth travels were always reported to the Liangshan Friendship Association. People from the office knowing what we were doing in Yangjuan and what we were planning to do sent me an estimate asking if I was willing to finance a project intended to provide water to the whole village. The price tag was well above our means and the realization of the project would have been entrusted to an outside company. This outsourcing could deprive the villagers from appropriating the technology, so to say, and from being involved in the maintenance of the network. Of course that would have also guaranteed a more reliable construction and for sure that would have sent money in private pockets.



This year, on December 7, I could see that the work had been done: a small dam on the creek of a remote valley tributary to the river running down the school secures water intake and brings it 20 meters down below to a water tank. About 1500 meters down below from the first water tank another one was built above the houses of the 6th brigade (the highest houses in the village). Most lines for distribution seem to start from this water tank. While I was in Yangjuan, one morning, water ran from the faucets for about half an hour. I guess by now distribution of water is ensured.

Though impressive and as far as I can judge well built, this water supply is not absolutely perfect. After a survey I found out that 4 houses from the 3rd brigade were left aloof though the main pipe runs only 200 meters from their houses. After pondering the matter I decided to give them RMB 1,000 to buy the pipes needed for the extension.

This very remote village, Yangjuan has been affected all these years by the changes in Chinese society and the effects of globalization. Ten years ago very few people had left the village to pursue studies outside and even to work outside. Now it is obvious that the trend for young people is to go out for temporary work. People went even as far as Pakistan and Burma, with the company they were working for. Most of the people go to places like Shanghai, Beijing or Canton and Shenzhen. Three years ago, an acquaintance from Taiwan operating a factory in Shanghai tried to hire about 30 workers from that village. That was a failure. Despite seriously warned about the necessary requirements they left the village unprepared (lack of documents like ID card, health certificate, under age etc.). After one year they were all back to Yangjuan or headed on for other destinations. On of their main complains was the weather conditions in Shanghai (very cold in winter and unbearably hot during summer). During that year a friend of ours in Shanghai tried to accompany them. Their salaries were spent in sophisticated electronic objects like cell phones but it seemed that there was no plan whatsoever to use the earned money to improved their livelihood back home.

duraud_yangjuan_dec_4While in the village, I had a conversation with one villager. He has been going out for work for 20 years. He is now 42 years old, father of three children (one in Senior High School, one in Junior High School and the third one is attending classes in the elementary school of Yangjuan). He has been working all over China. So his Mandarin is devoid of the Sichuan’s accent. During these twenty years his longest absence from the village was a full year. Now he does not venture farther than Chengdu and only for periods of three to four months. He usually does not go alone but with other villagers.

{rokbox size=|300 20|thumb=|images/stories/audio/audio_play_basic_thumb.jpg|}images/stories/audio/duraud_yi_yangjuan_conversation_dec_2010.mp3{/rokbox}

Another phenomenon affecting the village is that people from the upper part buy land halfway between the village and the nearby township. The reason is that communications with outside is easier. They nevertheless continue to cultivate their plots of land in upper locations. Moving down the village these people find themselves now deprived of the benefit of the last water supply improvement. They came to me asking for subsidies in order to extend the network up to their houses. I did not give a definite answer as I don’t know clearly the capability of the newly built system. If the network is extended for 2 kilometers it may require the construction of another water tank in order to secure enough pressure. In the coming months this is a matter to consider.

This last trip showed me also that living conditions were improving. Nobody builds anymore adobe houses. They all use cement bricks, and in many houses they cement the front yard, which is cleaner and more practical to dry the crops.

After this trip I can see that further action from our side could be the improvement of the water supply. Water supply is not only of importance for good health condition, it is also a factor that makes life in Yangjuan more sustainable particularly if part of the young labor force is outside to secure some cash income. Water supply makes life of those left behind (often children and grand parents, women) less painful.

duraud_yangjuan_dec_2Another line of action is education. The general trend is to go outside to work. This task force unfortunately inflates big cities underclass. Mr Ma, mentioned above, who has been working outside for 20 years thinks that a monthly salary of RMB 1,100 for construction work is indeed not a good salary. It could be that helping young people getting skills will allow them to emerge from the underclass. It might be a better option than sponsoring studies up to Senior High School that don’t secure anyway access to good Universities. A skilled worker can make much more than the basic RMB 1,100 a month and can, if smart enough, start his own business. There is a Japanese foundation running a school not far from Yangjuan providing short trainings to boys and girls in different crafts and businesses. That could be a possibility to explore.

Photos by J. Duraud


{rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/stories/jduraud_yangjuan_dec_2010/*{/rokbox}

Monday, 22 November 2010 18:09

A pioneer of inter-religious dialogue

As with Father Jean Lefeuvre, Father Albert Poulet-Mathis is one of the first Jesuits I met when I first came to Taiwan during summer 1982. It was difficult for me to figure out exactly what was his work was as he had an office outside the house where we were living. His work for the Federation of Asia Bishop Conferences in the field of inter-religious dialogue sounded a little mysterious to me. My stay was quite short but Father APM managed very kindly to invite me to his friend’s house on a couple of occasions. Later, after I settled down for good on the island, I realized that his work was indeed of great importance. But as the Catholic Church is really a minority in the religious world of the island, I somehow had the feeling that while his concern was for sure admired, it was also shared with reservations by other colleagues, as the care for the little Christian flock seemed always to be the priority of the priorities.

But now I realize that his contribution was a real gift not only to the Catholic Church or to all the religious groups in Taiwan, but also to the society in Taiwan as a whole.

In the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, what APM did in Taiwan was indeed the right thing to do for the Catholic Church in Taiwan. His initiative of inter-religious dialogue came at a time when the Catholic Church arrived somehow en masse from the mainland and had started to grow roots into Taiwanese soil. From a Catholic point of view nothing can be lost from a deeper understanding of other religious traditions and spirituality. The cheerful personality of APM, his charisma for making friends and bringing people together really did help many persons of good will and from very different backgrounds to cherish and keep the atmosphere of mutual respect among the different religious groups in Taiwan.

In this regard the work of Father APM in Taiwan has been of great importance. He has been a pioneer. Hopefully this task of promoting inter-religious dialogue will find a second breath and will bring deeper and more concrete experiences. The achievements of Father APM and his friends in this regard show that Taiwanese society is able to draw from its riches and diversity to innovate and move forward from a troubled past. The work of Father APM spanned during a period when various constituent groups of this society have been facing a new situation and also have confronted each other. May his efforts in the field of inter-religious dialogue be also a sign for the future of Taiwan!

(Photo provided by the Tien Center)


Tuesday, 24 November 2009 00:00

My first years in Taiwan

“Father, where do you come from?” Before I started to answer, the young man standing in front of me, the uncle of a student I was driving back home at the beginning of the winter holidays, apologised for daring to ask that question; I did not find his curiosity embarrassing in the slightest, at least he didn’t immediately label me as an American. My national pride was safe! “I am sorry Father, for asking you this; I did not mean to put a distance between us”. Being a “foreign” missionary I did realize how delicate his attitude was. He wanted me to feel at home on this piece of land that was now, with me present here, common to both of us. I remember years later when I tried to learn some Taiwanese, exactly how I realised that this attitude was rooted in the mind of the people: in Taiwanese, when answering the phone don’t people say “Lan ti te wi?” (Where are we?): this is inclusive language, so say the linguists, which already welcomes the stranger, or the unknown voice as a friend.

As a foreigner in a foreign land, the first thing I did experience profoundly in Taiwan was friendship. No need for a manual in hand to make friends. Far from France, I was often thinking that foreigners over there have a less enviable fate. But even when you are a priest, making friends is not the same as evangelising them.

My first assignment, after language studies, was to take responsibility of a dormitory for senior high school boys coming from the surrounding areas to study in Tainan. That was tough for me during in my first few years. I had to cope with teenagers speaking to me very fast. The boys, besides memorizing lists of English words, had very limited experience in learning a foreign language and were therefore pretty unaware of my difficulties. Our relationship became a mutual exercise of patience, and for me, wonderful training for my listening ability. After all, listening ability is a must for both a student in foreign languages and for being the teacher I was supposed to be. I’m really grateful to them for that. In a role where I was the intermediary, so to speak, between the parents, students and the school, I gained precious insights into the educational system of the country, which like the French system is endlessly reforming. Going to classes during the day, then in the evening (at least for some of them) to cram schools in order to secure good grades did not leave us much time for ‘evangelisation’ or any kind of religious instruction. Besides, I was not the principal in charge of their curriculum; time left after classes and study was scarce. My conversations with them were often limited to small encouragements to help cope with the trials of the educational system, the pressure of progressing to the next grade and of course the high expectations of their parents. My continuing to learn the language and their pursuing of their studies was for all of us a painful, though bonding experience! What I was doing during these five years was simply giving a little help, an accompaniment and I was thus happy to be part of the service that the Catholic Church was giving to the youth. Living in Tainan was also an ideal place to enjoy Taiwan. Knowing a different culture starts with the senses and all the Taiwan street snacks imaginable, were there at hand. Anytime, anyplace; street stalls, day and night markets were providing something to quench any little hunger.

I witnessed in the basement of our church the beginning of the now famous ‘Tainaner Ensemble’ (台南人劇團). Later they staged some of their productions at the French ‘Festival d’Avignon’. One of their special features has been translation into Taiwanese and adaptation of famous plays from the world theatre directory. A few years ago I remember attending and assisting their own interpretation of Macbeth at Taipei’s National Theatre and Concert Hall. Like me, some of them only had a smattering of Taiwanese phrases; nevertheless, for all of us it was a grand pleasure!

The dormitory building, Beda Student Centre(百達學生中心), still exists but it no longer hosts high school students. The alumni association that was formed about ten years ago (我為人人協會), now runs the place that has become a cultural centre harbouring different groups and activities including the theatre troop ‘Tainaner Ensemble’. Since the foundation of this dormitory more than 40 years ago, the needs of Taiwanese society have changed with the times. Services provided to the boys for 40 years have instilled the desire in those who benefited from them to take their turn to serve society in a different and creative way as men, and citizens. Is that not the beginning of evangelisation?

After five years in Tainan my next job in Kaohsiung was the care of Catholic college students. I was the chaplain in charge of the campus ministry (天主教大專同學會輔導神父) for the diocese (教區). The Catholic Church in Taiwan is a real minority. Thus I had to develop the necessary skills to find a handful of young Catholics willing to form a group, on campuses filled with thousands of students. Young people like to be together in big groups; for them it makes sense, for them its fun. The huge scale of a college campus makes it so obvious that not only Catholics, but all Christians really are a minority in Taiwan. How to overcome the frustration of being a minor group and nevertheless accepting to form a community of faith? For seven years my ministry was to accompany young people to keep faith and to grow in faith.

Furthermore, to accept that groups with a membership that could often be counted on the fingers of your hands could become the pinch of salt that brings the flavour of the Gospel to the world. Thank God very few groups were composed solely of Catholics. Friendship brings people together. At the same time College years are somehow relieved from the study pressure typical of senior high school years, creating opportunities for acquaintance with the Christian faith and thus for evangelisation.

I remember with yearning those years spent in Kaohsiung and the neighbouring districts. The challenges I encountered then are for me still the same now. On one side building communities of faith is always a priority. On the other side I do believe that Christian communities must be really open and avoid the temptation to huddle up amongst themselves for the sake of a ‘pure identity’. Evangelisation takes time. Some friends have been walking with us, sharing with us for a while, but we say, punning in Mandarin, “they are not yet Catholic friends教友, but already friends of the Catholic Church 教會的朋友”. In Chinese both if these meanings can take the same characters. Any ‘evangeliser’ must remember that he himself is in the process of becoming a Christian. Friendship is for that: from you I learn more about myself. What I appreciate in you may challenge my desire to live up to my Christian standards. Is a Christian community (whether Catholic or Protestant community) able to initiate and carry on projects where people from different backgrounds can contribute? Once, a parish priest talking about his flock drew my attention to the fact that one third of his parish were of mainlander descent, one third native Taiwanese, and one third aborigines. For celebrations and liturgy it was necessary to take into account these differences and sensitivities. And, I think perhaps there was more too it than simply handling sensitivities; amongst the differences in his parish a real potential for creativity was ready to be unveiled. I am so happy to enjoy the diversity of Taiwanese society that I hope that my Church, the Catholic Church, can be a catalyst for projects fostering harmony, comprehension and compassion. Compassion not only for this island too easily satisfied with its own economic achievements, but also for the less privileged world outside expecting some generosity from the rich.
This requires debate and discernment. For debate and discussion we will always be able to find mindful, passionate and reasonably critical friends willing to search together. Discernment requires time, silence, what we call prayer, because at stake are our desires, our projects which run in accordance with the spirit of love that comes from God and is shared by all men and women of good will.

Indeed I do cherish the memory of these years in the South with my friends the students. From them I was designated a form of address less formal than that of “Father”. Even if by being bestowed this nickname I was somehow upgraded from father to grandfather. That is why, now exiled in Northern Taiwan, I sign ’Kenyeye’ (Grandfather Ken): 肯爺爺.

Read the original version in French

Thursday, 17 January 2008 00:49

Leaders Who Lead the Way

At Renlai, we generally emphasize the importance of grassroots initiatives, the need for a vibrant civil society, and the necessity not to confide our destiny to so-called “providential” men. All of this is true, for sure, but, for a change, let me stress today how much our world also needs “leaders who lead the way.”

True leaders are not easy to breed and to find. Leadership requires a capacity for analyzing, getting down to core issues while disregarding secondary problems that might obscure the global vision; leadership is about making a few central choices and mobilizing means and resources for having these goals implemented throughout workable strategies. Leadership requires vision and courage, but it also goes along a capacity for judging and mobilizing people, for muddling through complicated systems and with complicated people, and for showing to all what the right move should be just by using the right word. Leadership capabilities are often distorted or perverted. One can use a capacity to understand and influence people in order to manipulate their fears and passions, one can mobilize a capacity to make bold and powerful assessments for making private interests win over public ones; and one can make the thirst for power substitute for visionary passion.

Today’s world requires exceptional leaders because we are meeting with exceptional problems. World problems are exceptional by their amplitude and their complexity. But they are also exceptional because we can mobilize resources for tacking them over, which was not possible so long ago. It is possible to overcome extreme poverty, to limit the effects of global warming, to manage our resources in a sustainable way, and to build up avenues of friendship and cooperation where hatred and rivalry predominate. But this requires investing our resources where it should be, mobilizing citizens over central issues rather than playing on nostalgia and diffidence, and to keep a firmness of purpose and vision.

Actually, only a true democracy can breed this kind lf leadership. When people are not afraid to speak up and to think freely, when they can first try their hand at organizing local associations and township governments, some of the most talented or passionate individuals will be able to compete for national power and to associate with other leaders in other countries and continents. At the end of the day, grassroots democracy is the field where leadership takes root, and true leaders can effectively lead the way only where there are grassroots movements to convince and to mobilize.

Photo by N. Priniotakis
Sunday, 04 February 2007 00:00

If all spirits were good...

A few days ago, we visited a sick woman. She told us she had been ill for one month and four days. It looked like she was very sick but she told us she had not seen a doctor since she was sick! I asked why and she told me that her mother died one year ago, she thought her mother turned into a bad spirit and caused her illness. Some people said that because she divorced then married again, her former husband punished her by asking a bad spirit to hurt her. I don’t believe there are spirits on the earth.

We came to visit her to attend a healing ritual as her relatives finally decided that it was the best chance to help her recover. We sat around the fire (more than a dozen of her relatives were already here), there was a lot of smoke in the room. They invited a “Bimo” because medicine could not heal when bad spirits come to bother you. It was the first time for me to attend that kind of ritual, so it helped me understand more about the religious customs of Yi people.

People say spirits include female spirits and male spirits. Sometime they can hurt people if they are not satisfied with them. When people die, they will turn into a bad spirit or a good spirit. I do not understand why our ancestors do not help us to fight the bad spirits so that only good spirits are left?

I think the spirits should help the people who are living on earth and not hurt them. Sometime I dream all the spirits are good. How nice it would be, if they could help us pass the exams, help us to improve in our studies, they could tell us what to do and not to do, they won’t hurt the people anymore and let the people live very happy everyday. They could make the farmers rich, they could help the poor students continue to study in the school, and so on.

But I am not sure whether there are really ghosts or spirits on the earth? If they exist, why did I never see them? And where are they? What do they eat? Do they have babies? What do they look like? Do they speak to each other? Do they play together? Are they sometime happy, sometime sad? Do they fight together? Do they like living with other people?

It is impossible to answer clearly to all these questions, but I think that when you are ill you’d better go to hospital, because the doctor will not cheat you, and visiting the doctor will be cheaper than performing healing rituals (to perform healing rituals, you will have to choose a special goat to kill, the Bimo will also ask for money). If you go to the hospital you will also save energy (when you meet a doctor he will be very quiet and the hospital atmosphere is good so you can easily rest, but the ritual will be performed very late at night in a thick smoke, also it is very long and very noisy).

I will tell you why do people usually think that ghosts come out in the evening! In my opinion it is because in the evening everything becomes dark, so people are afraid…

(Written in 2002, Yangjuan village)

Help us!

Help us keep the content of eRenlai free: take five minutes to make a donation


Join our FB Group

Browse by Date

« November 2008 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

We have 7984 guests and no members online