How did Catholics find their way to Borneo?

    Posted by Mike MacLachlan

    Along the tourist route around Mount Kinabalu in Sabah there are dozens of signboards – some only a few hundred metres apart – pointing to local Catholic churches.

    The blue-and-white boards with black lettering in English, Melayu and Chinese are identical, no doubt provided by the diocese, and the variety of saints on display is bewildering: from Bede to Charles to Pius V.

    Why should there be so many Catholic churches in what is, after all, a fairly remote area?

    Our guide was unforthcoming. “The missionaries came with the British,” he said.

    Which seemed odd. When the British North Borneo Company was granted its charter by Queen Victoria in 1881 after it was granted land by the Sultan of Sulu, the Catholic missionary movement in Britain was in its infancy.

    And, anyway, surely the British would have brought Anglican missionaries?

    It turns out the guide was almost right, but not quite. The missionaries were the Mill Hill Missions, or St Joseph Missionary Society, founded in a London suburb by Fr Herbert Vaughan, later to become Archbishop of Westminster, the most senior figure in the Church in England, and a cardinal.

    They started missionary work in South India in 1875, moving north-west to what is now Pakistan, where they still operate thriving missions.

    They arrived in Borneo the same year as the British, 1881, when they were given land in Kuching by the White Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Brooke.

    Brooke hoped that such a mission would be a stabilising influence on the Iban population and the British government, which had a naval station at Labuan island, hoped that it would care for passing British mariners.

    Even the Mill Hill Mission’s official history admits that expansion was slow. It was not until the end of the Second World War, possibly because of the rising prosperity of the territory, that the Catholic population of North Borneo began to increase.

    By 1976, when the vicariate of Jesselton became the diocese of Kota Kinabalu, Catholics made up nearly 15 per cent of the population of Sabah’s capital city.

    Kota Kinabalu is now an archdiocese with a Catholic population of nearly 300,000, though the percentage of Catholics has dropped to about six per cent.

    There are also three dioceses in Sabah: Sandakan, Sibu, Miri and finally Keningkau, which sets a remarkable record with 26.93 per cent of its population being Catholic.

    By contrast neighbouring Sarawak – where the mission started – has only one diocese, Kuching, where only 0.124 per cent of the population is Catholic.

    And the missionaries? There is still a Mill Hill Mission listed in UCAN’s diocesan directory for Kota Kinabalu, but many of them were thrown out of the state at a time of nationalist fervour in the 1970s and moved on to Indonesia, where they now have a mission station in the province of Irian Jaya.

    Shock allegations of a treatment center for pedophile priests

    Whistleblowers closely involved with the now defunct Encompass Australasia program allege paedophile clergy were diagnosed with a ”mood disorder” in order for them to be treated at Sydney’s Wesley Private Hospital and meet private health insurance criteria.

    A well-placed source aware of the status of some clergy treated by Encompass Australasia between 1997 and 2008 said he believed several did not have a mood disorder but were ”cold and calculating criminals” who bragged about their exploits with children to others while at the hospital.

    ”Some of these people were not mentally ill, in my opinion. They were criminals who knew exactly what they had done and were proud of their achievements,” the source, who asked not to be named for fear of being sacked, said. ”People who should have been in Long Bay Jail were still living in the community.”

    Another source with intimate knowledge of the Encompass Australasia program said one senior priest who received treatment was nicknamed “Hannibal the cannibal” because of the exuberant way he described his treatment of young boys.

    Fairfax Media can reveal new details about a paedophile Marist brother treated by Encompass Australasia in 2002-03 before being sent to Rome to work for the church instead of being reported to police.

    Documents lodged in the ACT Supreme Court in 2010 allege senior Catholic leaders, including the former headmaster of a Queensland school, knew Marist brother Ross Murrin was sexually abusing his students in the late 1970s and early 1980s but failed to act.

    A statement of claim lodged by an alleged victim of Murrin’s states that the former headmaster of St Augustine’s boarding school in Cairns, Brother Gerald Burns, gave circus tickets to two boys who complained about Murrin’s abuse, allegedly telling them it was in recognition of ”all the bother”.

    Full Story: Diagnosis was ‘smokescreen’ to hide known paedophiles 

    Source: Sydney Morning Herald

    When fear rules the roads

    Posted by Kamran Chaudhry


    It has been several weeks since a banner condemning the notorious anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims has been hanging at the gate of the mission school where my five year old son studies. Almost all mainstream churches in Lahore have erected such banners as rage against the US turns its focus on church buildings.

    Christians have protested against the video on roads and in inter religious gatherings but still two churches have been attacked in other districts. There has been no such incident in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, where church compounds remain heavily guarded by internal security.

    The guard at the school, located besides a Church of Pakistan cathedral, tries his level best to scan us with his hand held metal detector when we come to fetch our children. But many impatient parents try to evade the check point or dodge the queues around the concrete barricades placed in front of the gates.

    Another sits all day long amid sandbags at the check post, built on top of the boundary wall, with his gun always pointed at the road.

    These men and the banner give me hope that there will be no terrorist attempt here. Still, I wish my son could learn a peaceful way of life as he grows up. My concerns for his safety grow every time I hear about a new protest by Islamic parties in the city.

    Luckily his school is situated a few meters from the building where my office is based, so I always pick him up in time. Our province, located in the center, is presently the safest place to live as the wave of violence grows all around. I pray it stays the same.

    Faith of a child

    Posted by Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin

    At his ordination in July, Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin declared his intention to quit the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association, which advocates an independent Church. Since then he has been confined to Sheshan Seminary, in the suburbs of Shanghai.

    This is an edited version of his latest Chinese blog post “Faith of a child” which he released on November 3.

    I am gratified that my parents died early.

    My father passed when I was studying my second year of theology. I spent the whole winter break on his sickbed. Since I entered the seminary, we had less chance to talk, unlike when I was a child and he used to tell me lots of stories. He became quieter once I learnt to study and read. Then when he was seriously ill, without much strength to speak, it was my turn to sit near his bed and quietly keep him company.

    I had to report back when the new semester began. If I had written to the rector, telling him about my father, I am sure he would have let me stay home a while longer. But when I thought of those seminarians travelling so far from other provinces, I realized it was not fair for me, someone from the local diocese, to extend my holiday.

    My father asked me to stay as long as I could and I dashed to get back to the seminary the evening before classes resumed. The next morning came the call from my family: my father had passed at 4 am. I rushed back home to find his body wrapped in white cloth.

    My mother suffered from a rare type of leukemia and had been relying on both Chinese and western medication for over 10 years. Just as I was assigned to Nanqiao parish near Fengxian, her health suddenly deteriorated. The doctor told us she had three months to live. It was not easy for me to travel from Fengxian, which is on the outskirts of Shanghai, back to the city center to visit my mother.

    Meanwhile, I caught a fever and was hospitalized with an atypical pneumonia; they wanted to check if it was SARS. My mother and I were sent to different hospitals, but we managed to talk on the phone.

    “Daqin, it matters not,” she told me. “Although the cross God gave us was heavy, we must be able to bear it. The merciful God would not give us a cross that we cannot carry.” She lived three more months, and passed away on the feast of Christ the King.

    I am the youngest of three. My parents did not want to see me suffer and would bear anything for me. All good parents in the world do that, don’t they? And do the children recognize their filial responsibility to take care of their parents only when they have passed?

    My mother supported me when I decided to go to the seminary but my father vigorously objected. There was only one reason for his objection: his father, his younger brother and he himself were all jailed because of their Catholic faith. He did not wish to see his beloved son suffering the same hardship.

    But I persisted. I got admitted to Sheshan, which was at that time the largest seminary in the country.

    For certain reasons, the seminary is temporarily suspended at the moment. Seminarians from various dioceses who were studying theology and philosophy here have been transferred. Still, it is a sacred place in my heart and, I believe, in many others’ hearts too. Located at the world famous pilgrimage site of Sheshan, it is God’s great gift to Shanghai and the China Church.

    The other day I was alone in my room, making rosary beads and praying for the deceased during this month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, when some of the others set off for the cathedral to attend a diaconal ordination.

    I thought of my parents and something occurred to me: I felt very grateful that they have passed away so early, because they do not have to worry for me. They were honest and sincere all through their life but they have suffered one political movement after another. Only the people of their generation can truly appreciate the struggles they have gone through.

    If they were still alive today, I don’t know how nervous and worried about me they would be! Even when Catholics started coming to see me after August, their first words were often “have you been beaten up?” and then, mostly likely, “you look thin and gaunt.”

    Sometimes, what you experience in a few days, weeks or months could be more than what you have for your whole life. Witnessing the dynamics among people and the vicissitudes, you grow to become mature, and you grow to become old gradually.

    Even though “drinking tea” [a metaphor for being summoned by government officials] many times and being warned not to have any illusions, my thoughts are free.

    I have been asked: why did not I leave? It is because of what my father said to me when I insisted on entering the seminary and preparing for priesthood.

    “If you are determined to go, do not come back and do not give up when you are half-way through,” he said. I did not hesitate to answer “of course!”

    I have kept this promise until today. I am going to keep it until the day I grow old, if God wishes me live to an old age.

    This is a very small promise that a son made to his father. Is such a promise the faith of a humble and frail son?

    Please feel free to add a comment.

    A bad example doesn’t make a bad religion

    Posted by Rock Ronald Rozario

    Recently, I picked a war of words with one of my close friends over his derogatory remarks on Islam. “Not all Muslims are bad people, but Islam is a religion with wrong principles,” he said to my utter disgust.

    We were talking about widespread corruption and other social vices in Bangladesh and trying to find out their socio-historic roots. One of the discussion topics was the recent attack on a Buddhist community here, by an angry Muslim mob.

    Hundreds of years ago lower caste Hindus converted to Islam en masse, largely to escape injustice and torture by the upper class in a society heavily based on social caste system. My friend says the decision to embrace Islam was wrong.

    “No religion is inherently bad, because every religion teaches people to be good,” I said, but he didn’t change his stance. He countered by saying he had read Qu’ran and found its teaching ‘unacceptable’.

    I tried to find some practical reasons behind his prejudice and misconceptions.

    My friend has been a non-practicing Catholic for a long time, since even before we met four years ago; he was born in a Catholic parish to a Catholic father and Protestant mother. The family moved to a predominantly Muslim area due to his father’s job and he grew up in that area.

    There was no Catholic church nearby, only a small evangelical Protestant church with about a hundred believers. Most of the children he knew were Muslims and some of them treated him like a crow among peacocks. So, he grew into adulthood hating Muslim, but also with ignorance about his own religious faith.

    Then, a few months ago, his world came crashing down when a bad road accident left his right leg smashed. Most people didn’t think he would walk again, and he didn’t think so either, but he made it within six months. It was around then that he started believing ‘God does exist’!

    But the more he turned to the Church, the more critical he became about Islam and Muslims.

    While my friend’s case has unique aspects, most Christians in the country share the same views on Islam.

    Taking sporadic cases of injustice and torture by opportunist Muslims, most Christians vilify the whole Muslim world. Is that fair?

    Please feel free to comment