The University of Scranton will receive a national gift from the government of Taiwan – a replica of that nation’s renowned Kinmen Peace Bell.
Ambassador Paul Wen-liang Chang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, will present the bell in a dedication ceremony at the University of Scranton’s Loyola Science Center on Thursday, May 1, at 4:30 p.m. The University is the only higher education institution in the world to receive a replica of the Kinmen Peace Bell.
“The gift is a significant gesture from Taiwan,” said Ann Pang-White, Ph.D., director of the University’s Asian Studies program and professor of philosophy. “It is in honor of the University’s charter membership in the Taiwan Academy and its success with its Taiwanese cultural programming and Asian Studies program.”
The original bell was dedicated in 2011 in a ceremony on Taiwan’s Kinmen Island. The bell is more than six-feet high and weighs about 1,100 pounds. It is engraved with the word “peace” in more than 100 languages and is cast from copper and metal from artillery shells fired upon that island by China’s People’s Liberation Army. Kinmen was the site of an intense 44-day battle in 1958, during which China fired more than 450,000 artillery shells upon it, killing 2,600 people.
“The fact that the original peace bell was made from artillery shells reflects the idea in the Book of Isaiah of people beating swords into plowshares and no longer waging war,” said Sister Mary Anne Foley, CND, Ph.D., the University’s Director of Peace and Justice Studies Program and associate professor of theology/religious studies. “The mission of the university as a Catholic and Jesuit university is to transform our world into a world that’s more just and more peaceful. This bell will be a very powerful symbol of that.”
Dr. Pang-White agreed, “What could be more symbolic than to take all these shells and make a peace bell out of it?”
The dedication ceremony will include remarks from Ambassador Chang, University President Rev. Kevin Quinn, S.J., Harold Baillie, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, and Dr. Pang-White. Mabel De La Cruz and Joseph Ehrenreich, students in the Asian Studies program, will read a poem, “When the Bell of Peace is Tolled 823 Times.” Dr. Foley will offer a closing prayer.
The Loyola Science Center will be a temporary location for the bell. Dr. Pang-White said University officials plan to erect an outdoor structure with Asian architectural elements to house the bell at a location on campus yet to be determined.
The University’s relationship with Taiwan began in the fall of 2010 with a Taiwanese film festival and art exhibit. Since then the school has hosted a Chinese opera performance, a Taiwanese chamber music concert and master class, a second film festival, a poetry and literature event and a puppetry performance and workshop, in addition to hosting two visiting Chinese Mandarin instructors from Taiwan supported by a grant and participating in scholarship and fellowship programs.
The success of such programming is part of the reason the University was chosen to receive the peace bell, Dr. Pang-White said. The University is one of 88 higher education institutions around the world that are members of the Taiwan Academy, an organization that promotes Taiwanese studies and cultural exchange.
The peace bell dedication will take place amid a series of events for the University’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.