Daily Archives:March 22nd, 2018

Remembering the eight brave war heroes from WWII

Representatives of the eight families pause in silent prayer after the wreath-laying ceremony, Petagas War Memorial Park, 21 Jan 2018.

Between June 12 and early July 1945, eight local civilians were apprehended, denied military trials, tortured and unlawfully killed for participating in anti-Japanese subversive activities with “sympathies which leaned towards the Allied cause.”   The 1946 war crime trials held in Changi Singapore revealed that of the 30+ men on a black list, Kempeitai Harada Kensei chose to issue three orders to eradicate the “8 civilians” identified as the primary persons “definitely detrimental” “to the maintenance of peace and order.”

The first order involved Lothar Wong Manjaji and Vitalianus Joseph Lim @ Ubing. The second order involved Chong Pin Sin, Simon Thien, and Bung Ah Tee @ Stephen Pan Tet Liong and Paul Lee Onn @ Paul Lee Fook Onn. The third order involved Lim Hock Beng and Mohinder Singh.

The Kempeitai was found responsible and guilty of all three charges by the Allied Land Forces Military Court for War Crimes. (Ref: The National Archives, Kew. Japanese War Crime Trials Proceedings. Reference WO 235/884 1946 Case No.72. Defendant: Harada Kensei, Changi, Singapore).

On a bright Sunday morning on 21 January 2018, during the annual 2018 official ceremony for all war victims, eight men’s names were commemorated on a new plaque at the main war monument at the Petagas War Memorial Park.

After decades of waiting and grieving by their families, the eight were finally accorded a hero’s recognition, with representatives from each family laying a wreath at the site. The ceremony was attended by state dignitaries and representatives from the police, army, navy, foreign consulates and many from the eight families and other families.

On Jan 22, a Memorial Mass was celebrated by the Rector of St Simon Church, Father Cosmas Lee at St Simon Chapel, Likas.

Out of these eight men, six were Catholics and several were prominent leaders in their local and church communities. The Mass, held nearly 73 years after their deaths, was attended by up to 200 family members. It was the first time they gathered to pray for their loved ones – be it their father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, granduncle, great-granduncle or even cousin. To the younger generations, they were persons they had heard a lot about but had never known.

It was a poignant reminder of the cruelties of what war had done to the families. At the same time, it gave them much needed closure and a sense of pride knowing their beloved ones had died bravely and now acknowledged by the state authorities.

During the Mass, Fr Cosmas said that war has a dehumanising effect on humankind, on the aggressors and the victims alike. No one is spared the horrors of what happens in a war. We have to heal by praying for all victims, as well as the enemies. Just as Jesus prayed for and forgave those who crucified him, we must do the same.   As only by that, we ourselves are healed and reconciled to God.

After the Mass, old friends met to bond and share stories during a simple fellowship dinner at St Simon hall.

These eight men were not just random names but were inextricably linked together from their childhood days – through school, church and the local community. Much of what is known of them come from oft-repeated stories from the wives, older surviving children, written correspondence, official and church records.

The six staunch Catholics were also good friends to one another. They played a prominent role in the church community before and during the war. Born at the turn of the century, several of them were ‘old boys’ of Father Valentine Weber, a Mill Hill priest from the Tyrol looking after the Sacred Heart Mission and boys’ school from 1906-1930. They were very likely much influenced by this priest who was described as “a man of few words, his actions spoke for him instead. He continues to be reverently remembered by parishioners as a Father with outstanding kindness, especially his deep compassion for the poor.” (100 years of Good News Sacred Heart)

Church records provide a fascinating insight into the lives of these men and the part the church and their faith played in their lives. Fr Weber lived in the same house as the boarders – many of whom were children of “poverty-stricken emigrant parents, majority of whom could not pay a fee.” Fr Weber used his limited funds to shelter, clothe, feed and educate them like his own children. “These students, known as Fr Weber’s boys, developed a life-long loyalty to him and many grew up to be prominent citizens of Jesselton who would make up the core community of faith.” (100 years of Good News Sacred Heart Cathedral)

Among these older ex-students were Paul Lee Fook Onn (Lee Ah Onn), Simon Thien, and (Lothar) Manjaji.

In the first war crime charge, Lothar Manjaji and Vitalianus Lim were on this list. The Japanese authorities suspected them of making parangs and spears in preparation for an uprising, and also of preventing the Japanese from hiring coolies.

Msgr Wachter (L), Manjaji (seated)

LOTHAR WONG MANJAJI, was born Wong Kah Kee in 1896 in Limbanak, Penampang, the third child of six children of Antonius Bungon/Pungun Wong and Siaham. Lothar was baptised as a Catholic at age 16 in December 1912 by Father August Wachter, then the rector of St Michael’s, Penampang.

It is recorded in the history of St Aloysius School Limbanak that Manjaji first taught adult male classes in his elder brother Ligunjang Pungun’s house. At that time, no females went to school. Manjaji, who had been educated at Sacred Heart School under Fr Weber, later took it upon himself to educate some of his brothers’ children, especially the girls who were still living in the kampung.

In the 1930s leading up to the war, Manjaji was employed by the Rubber Restriction Board. He also owned family businesses e.g. a rice mill (where local families bartered the milling of their padi with rice grain) and 50 acres of rubber land. According to historian Danny Wong, this sound financial position allowed him to indulge in sporting activities and all that “made him famous and remembered among people of his community, as well as able to live quite comfortably and accorded him the strength to play a pivotal role within his community”.

He was an active member of the Sacred Heart Church and close to the priests. A father of seven children, he often invited the foreign missionaries to his Karamunsing home for dinner. A frequent visitor was Msgr August Wachter, the previous rector of Penampang Mission from 1907 and who became the fourth Prefect Apostolic of North Borneo (1927–1945).The then Fr Wachter had baptised Manjaji as a teenager and was undoubtedly a key influential figure in his life. His daughter Katherine Anna, born in 1928, would recount many stories of Msgr Wachter visiting the their Karamunsing house and how he would call her by her second name ‘Anna’.

During the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, Manjaji was appointed native magistrate by the Japanese Military Administration. One of his duties was to supervise the collection of padi and other foodstuff for the Japanese army from the Dusun cultivators in the district, many of whom had little for themselves and hardly any to spare. Katherine said they used to hide the bulk of the padi up in the roof of their house and display the little padi left to the Japanese soldiers who would come to each house to check their stock.

Towards the end of the war, on 19 May 1945, the Japanese army arrived at the Penampang mission to take Msgr Wachter, six other foreign priests, and three school boarders away. The church annals recorded that before Msgr Wachter was taken away, “there came to him Manjaji, Herman (Motogol), Vitalianus Lim and Claudius Yap, all influential members of the parish and he begged them to look well after the Mission property in case the Japs insisted on their removal.” (100 years of Good News Sacred Heart).

Soon after, those men were also apprehended by the Kempeitei. Manjaji’s body has never been recovered. After his death, his widow Otillia Libuyan Bokuta was left to fend for their seven children and also those he had adopted.

VITALIANUS J LIM @ UBING was born in 1900 at Kg Limbahau. He was the son of Didacus Lim, a Chinese originating from Hainan China, and Maria Gondomboi Kokoyou, a local Kadazan. Vitalianus married Marcella Kuntim Duaon, a Kadazan and they had six children, three of whom are surviving today. He worked for the government as a clerk in Kudat and Keningau. Later, he was transferred back to Jesselton as Constabulary Clerk. He was also a volunteer with the North Borneo Volunteer Force (established in 1938) as a Corporal.

When the war started, Lim was appointed as the District Officer of Tenom and in 1943, was transferred back to Jesselton and resided at Batu Tiga (presently Bukit Perwira). Based on evidence from the 1946 War Crime Trial proceedings, the family believes that he was unlawfully killed on 13 June 1945 together with Manjaji. After his death, the family moved back to Papar and resided at Kg Limbahau, attending the Holy Rosary Church, Limbahau where they continued to journey on in their faith.

The two men’s close friendship and association with the church as well as the other men named on the black list seemed to suggest a linkage with each other. – Vera Chin and Susanna Lye

(Vera is the granddaughter of Lothar Manjaji and Susanna Lye is the granddaughter of Paul Lee.)

To be continued

Can you really vote your conscience?

Can you really vote your Conscience?

“VOTE your conscience” is not an unfamiliar phrase during election seasons. However, conscience is a biblical theme, and Christians should ask whether the common understanding of conscience in our society has become more in line with Disney’s Jiminy Cricket than with the word of God.

When we open the Bible and ask what God has to say about it, we’ll soon find that your conscience, in fact, does not have a vote in this election.

Hearing crickets?

The way many of us understand the conscience is actually very close to a tiny cricket living inside our heads. The conscience is like an inner, speaking guide leading us through the blinding haze when we lose our way.

Tapping into the wisdom of Seinfeld’s Kramer: “What does the little man inside you say? . . . The little man knows all.” In short, many people think of their conscience as the guiding voice inside them that speaks which direction to take at the fork in the road. When you don’t know what to do, let your conscience be your guide. So, when we hear, “Vote your conscience,” we think, “Listen to the guiding voice inside you.”

Can’t vote your conscience

This understanding of the conscience more closely resembles the Hindu idea of a guru counselor than the Bible’s explanation of the conscience.

Biblically speaking, the conscience is less like a guide and more like a reporter. Your conscience is not like a crystal ball that tells you what choice to make going forward (whether this candidate or that one). It’s not a proactive voice that provides you with new information you do not know. Rather, it is a reactive voice that tells you whether your actions, thoughts, and beliefs conform to the law of God.

Biblically, your conscience doesn’t have a vote. To be precise, you don’t “vote your conscience” – but your conscience does have something to say about your vote, once you begin to formulate it.

Your conscience is the inward testimony of God’s law written on your heart (Romans 2:15); it is like a microphone to God’s law, so that no one can ever say before God, “I didn’t know I was sinning” (Romans 2:16). The unbelieving suppress the truth of God within them (Romans 1:18), but this is no excuse for not knowing God, because the conscience regularly reports to them that they are sinning against God’s law.

If a Christian sins against God’s law, the conscience will flare up – in fact, the Christian conscience is presumably more sensitive because of the Spirit’s work in us. However, the Christian’s conscience is not testifying to the wrath of an angry God but the loving discipline of a heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:6–7).

No excuses for bad decisions

The distinction between conscience-as-guide and conscience-as-reporter becomes massively significant when we apply it to elections and other important decisions.

For one, understanding your conscience as a guide – as a kind of third-party counsel, other than your own heart and mind – can aid the effort to excuse oneself from moral accountability. It is an easy thing to play the conscience card: “I’m going to vote for Candidate X because my conscience told me to.” Well, who can argue with that? If your conscience told you so, no need for further thought or careful arguments.

In reality, what most people mean by “conscience” is “my gut feeling,” which is to say, the bottom level of a sometimes-sinful, sometimes-good, often-confused, sincere mess of emotions, opinions, and understandings of what’s right and wrong – not exactly a faithful guide. Thus, the conscience often becomes a moral scapegoat either for sinful choices, or for the sin of apathy, or for neglecting the hard work required to make tough decisions.

By pointing to the “conscience,” many expect to be let off the hook for their sinful or unexamined actions. But this is foolish, since what they really mean by conscience is not the unquestionable law of God, but the highly questionable human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Essentially, this abused understanding of the conscience trades a deceptive excuse like “the devil made me do it” with “my conscience made me do it.”

For love of God and neighbour

A proper, biblical understanding of the conscience should lead Christians in the opposite direction. Instead of washing our hands of the hard work of making difficult decisions, we should be eager to give voting its due diligence and offer up our leanings against the law of God for evaluation.

The Christian’s conscience is tethered to God’s law. That means that the conscience always speaks to the summary of God’s law: love God and love your neighbour (Matthew 22:37–40), which is a helpful grid to consciously consider for any election: Which vote (or no vote) will be the truest expression of my love for God and desire for my neighbour’s good?

In any given situation, your conscience – properly speaking – will not lead you. It’s not your guide. But it will evaluate your thoughts or actions based on whether they conform or transgress God’s command to love him and love your neighbour with all you are – heart, mind, soul, and strength. Your own God-given wisdom – your “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14) – will lead you to understand (and be accountable for) the best way to obey the obligations of love for God and neighbour by voting for this candidate or that (or whether to abstain, not from apathy, but from principle).

What your conscience will do is convict you if you are voting out of sinful comfort or greed or fear. Or it will minister God’s approval if you act, as well as you’re able, in an effort to obey the command to honour him and love your neighbour.

When this is done – when your vote is a positive expression of a heart that is earnestly “desiring to act honourably in all things” (Hebrews 13:18) – you will receive the testimony of a good conscience.

Make that your goal this election season: not to hear crickets, but to receive the peace that comes from “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

So, don’t vote your conscience. Rather, in whatever electoral choice you make – hidden to the world, but in the full sight of God – seek to love him and love your neighbour with a good conscience. – www.desiringgod

In season of Lent, Church offers everyone to live a time of desert

LENT is the occasion that the church offers to everyone, indistinctly, to live a time of desert without thus having to abandon daily activities. St Augustine made this famous appeal:

Re-enter your heart! Where do you want to go far from yourself? Re-enter from your wandering which has led you outside the way; return to the Lord. He is quick. First re-enter into your heart, you who have become a stranger to yourself, because of your wandering outside; you do not know yourself, and seek Him who has created you! Return, return to your heart, detach yourself from your body…. Re-enter into your heart: there examine Him whom you perceived as God, because the image of God is there, Christ dwells in man’s interior.”

To re-enter into one’s heart! But, what is represented by the word heart, of which there is so often talk in the Bible and in human language? Outside the ambit of human physiology, where it is but a vital organ of the body, the heart is the most profound metaphysical place of a person, the innermost being of every man, where each one lives his being a person, namely his subsisting in himself, in relation to God, from whom he has his origin and in whom he finds his purpose, to other men and to the whole of creation. In ordinary language the heart also designates the essential part of reality. “To go to the heart of the problem” means to go to the essential part of it, on which all the other parts of the problem depend.

Thus, the heart indicates the spiritual place, where one can contemplate the person in his most profound and true reality, without veils and without pausing on externals. Every person is judged by their heart, by what he bears within himself, which is the source of his goodness and his wickedness. To know the heart of a person means to have penetrated the intimate sanctuary of his personality, by which that person is known for what he really is and is worth.

To return to the heart means therefore to return to what is most personal and interior to us. Unfortunately, interiority is a value in crisis. Some causes of this crisis are old and inherent to our nature itself. Our “composition,” that is, our being constituted of flesh and spirit, inclines us toward the external, the visible, the multiplicity. Like the universe, after the initial explosion (the famous Big Bang), we are also in a phase of expansion and of moving away from the centre. We are perennially “going out” through those five doors or windows which are our senses.

Saint Teresa of Avila wrote a work titled The Interior Castle, which is certainly one of the most mature fruits of the Christian doctrine of interiority. However, there is, alas, also an “exterior castle” and today we see that it is possible to be shut-in also in this castle. Shut outside of home, incapable of returning. Prisoners of externals!

What is done outside is exposed to the almost inevitable danger of hypocrisy. The look of other persons has the power to deflect our intention, like certain magnetic fields deflect the waves. Our action loses its authenticity and its recompense. Appearance prevails over being. Because of this, Jesus invites to fasting and almsgiving in a hidden way and to pray to the Father “in secret” (cf. Mt 6:1-4).

Inwardness is the way to an authentic life. There is so much talk today of authenticity and it is made the criterion of success or lack thereof in life. However, where is authenticity for a Christian? When is it that a person is truly himself? Only when he has God as his measure. “There is so much talk – writes the philosopher Kierkegaard – of wasted lives. However, wasted only is the life of a man who never realized that a God exists and that he, his very self, stands before this God.”

Persons consecrated to the service of God are the ones who above all are in need of a return to interiority. In an address given to Superiors of a contemplative religious Order, Paul VI said:

Today we are in a world which seems to be gripped by a fever that infiltrates itself even in the sanctuary and in solitude. Noise and din have invaded almost everything. Persons are no longer able to be recollected. They are prey of a thousand distractions, they habitually dissipate their energies behind the different forms of modern culture. Newspapers, magazines, books invade the intimacy of our homes and of our hearts. It is more difficult to find the opportunity for the recollection in which the soul is able to be fully occupied in God.”

However, let us try to see what we can do concretely, to rediscover and preserve the habit of inwardness. Moses was a very active man. But we read that he had a portable tent built and at every stage of the exodus, he fixed the tent outside the camp and regularly entered it to consult the Lord. There, the Lord spoke with Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

However, we cannot always do this. We cannot always withdraw into a chapel or a solitary place to renew our contact with God. Therefore, Saint Francis of Assisi suggested another device closer at hand. Sending his friars on the roads of the world, he said: We always have a hermitage with us wherever we go and every time we so wish we can, as hermits, re-enter in this hermitage. “Brother body is the hermitage and the soul is the hermit that dwells within to pray to God and to meditate.” It is like having a desert “in the house,” in which one can withdraw in thought at every moment, even while walking on the street. Saint Anselm of Aosta in one of his famous works:

Come now, miserable mortal, flee for a brief time from your occupations, leave for a while your tumultuous thoughts. Move away at this moment from your grave anxieties and put aside your exhausting activities. Attend to God and repose in him. Enter into the depth of your soul, exclude everything, except God and what helps you seek him and, having closed the door, say to God: I seek your face. Your face I seek, Lord.” – Fr Raneiro Cantalamessa

How to pray for the upcoming general elections

In Paul’s teaching on prayer in 1 Tim 2:1–4, one of the major thrusts is praying for those in authority. According to Paul’s reasoning, we want good government that allows us to live “peaceful and quiet lives” – ultimately freeing us to evangelise those who are lost.

Paul would have been amazed that Christians could someday actually take part in selecting those leaders. I believe he would have been even more amazed (and appalled) that many of those Christians didn’t even bother to get involved in selecting those leaders for the purposes of God to be fulfilled.

Praying for the electoral process is the first step in seeing the fulfillment of what Paul is writing about to Timothy. I don’t believe we should wait for a leader to be selected before we move into obedient prayer for those in authority.

So why pray for the elections? There are a number of compelling reasons:

The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership, which would include those who are vying to become leaders.

Godly leaders can help slow the erosion of religious liberties in our land, providing an increased window of opportunity for the Church to pray and evangelise.

The selection of leaders who understand and lead according to God’s righteous standards can bring great blessing to a nation (Prov 14:34).

Scripture also says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers” (Prov 11:14). The determination of who leads our nation will also determine who advises that leader and how we are guided.

Here are seven major areas to pray for that relate to our national election.

  1. Pray for our nation and the issues it faces.
  2. Pray for the Election Process, for wisdom for voters and a safe and fair election.
  3. Pray for the salvation of candidates and leaders who are in leadership of our nation.
  4. Pray for the Church.
  5. Pray for the Media and for truth to be an established standard in our news media.
  6. Spiritual Warfare – ask for great awareness and discernment as we pray over the election.
  7. Revival – pray for a Great Awakening to sweep the nation as the Lord’s people learn to humble themselves with a contrite spirit, and to tremble at the Word of the Lord.

We can broaden the prayer effort beyond our own prayers by being part of the 24/7 IN-THE-AIR prayer centres which have flourished across the country, to join like-minded Christians to pray for a fair and just electoral process. For more information on the 24/7 prayer centre in SHC, contact Lucia @ 012-8027255. – reviveourhearts

SFC Class 1979 meet after 39 years

PENAMAPNG – Forty-seven students and teachers of Class 1979 of St Francis Convent Secondary School Kota Kinabalu met after 39 years on 21 Mar 2018.

The event was hosted by Preetha Joseph at her residence at Teck Guan Villa Penampang.  Although residing in the United States, she comes home yearly to commemorate the death anniversary of her mother.

It was certainly a joyful reunion for all the classmates – one science class and two art classes – some have never met since they left school in 1979.  They spent the night sharing food and  stories.

Teachers invited included Franciscan Sister Cecilia Liew (principal, SFC primary), Mrs Christina Chen, Chai Moi Len (formerly Mrs Poon), and Mrs Wong Wan Cher.

Before the night was over, they promised to meet again on their 40th anniversary next year.

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