What has been our experience of Malaysia?

Dr Loh presented Malaysia: New Economy, New Society, but No New Politics yet… Whither the Church? to the delegates on Oct 4.

Oct 20, 2016

Dr Loh presented Malaysia: New Economy, New Society, but No New Politics yet… Whither the Church? to the delegates on Oct 4.

He has been the president of Aliran since 2011. He was formerly Professor of Politics at Universiti Sains Malaysia. He also lectures in College General.

The Church brought the Good News, opened churches, but also provided for the poor and the needy. It was favoured by the colonial powers, and also by the first generation of Malaysian political leaders.

Because of close ties with the powers-that-be, the Church acquired, cheaply, the choicest places upon which they built churches, schools, hospitals, retreat centres, etc. The areas it specialised in were education and social services.

The Church established schools for boys and girls through the La Salle Brothers, IJ Sisters, Cannossian Sisters, Marist Brothers, Brothers of St Gabriel. There were also the Mill Hill Fathers in Sabah and Sarawak.

These schools were considered the premier schools in the country for their excellence and Catholic ethos.

To ensure that there were qualified teachers for the institutions, teacher training colleges were also established.

Social Service
Orphanages and homes, which often operated as extensions to churches, were also established.

There were religious congregations which came specifically to minister in hospitals like the Grey Sisters, Brothers of Mercy and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Among the well-known Hospitals are Assunta Hospital in PJ, Fatimah Hospital in Ipoh and Mt Miriam Hospital in Penang.

The Little Sisters of the Poor looked after the aged with homes in Penang and KL.

The laity too have been involved in this endeavour. The Catholic Welfare Services opened a home for the elderly in Kg Simee Ipoh, just to name one.

The Good Shepherd Sisters focused more on the welfare of women and children, with homes in Ipoh and KL.

The laity under the Young Christian Workers and the Society of St Vincent De Paul were always there to provide help to the marginalised.

All these complemented the lack of provision for the poor and the needy by the colonial government.

With a history of successfully providing for the needs of the poor, it is easy to forget that Christians constitute a minority.

Post-Merdeka, the Umno-led Alliance/Barisan Nasional government
The government introduced development projects. Initially, it promoted infrastructural development and land resettlement in rural areas, Schools, health services, public utilities were also extended down to rural villages.

With the New Economic Policy (NEP), the government began to restructure society to improve the lot of the bumiputera, who had been left out of the modern economy.

It promoted ‘New Malay’ middle-class professionals and captains of industry and commerce.

As they were the majority indigenous group, they promoted the Malay culture and Islamisation.

To promote ‘national unity’, ‘one language policy’, a centralised educational system was introduced.

Due to monetary difficulties, mission schools joined the national system so that the government paid the salaries of teachers. It adopted a common syllabus and exams.

The mission schools then lost their autonomy, including the right to train teachers, to appoint HMs, etc.

New restrictions were imposed on foreign missionaries, and a decline in vocations globally further affected the Church and the running of mission schools.

There were no new foreign Brothers and Sisters and few local vocations.

From the 1980s, fewer non-Malays became teachers as they were needed to be competent in BM. They could also be transferred anywhere. These teachers had poor promotion prospects due to the NEP.

Nowadays, a majority of the teachers, and an increasing percentage of students in Mission schools are Malays. Many non-Malays have moved to vernacular schools and to private schools. With fewer numbers, complaints of creeping Islamisation have arisen.

Hospitals were less directly affected. There were no more foreign missionaries and there were few local vocations. However, they were allowed to train nurses and aides.

The bigger concern is the rising cost of running hospitals. It is expensive to run private hospitals which means that the poor and needy are not served. They have to turn to the crowded public hospitals instead.

Comments on Dr Francis Loh’s session regarding youth being at the forefront of the ‘small politics’

“We youths need to maximize our resources, skills and talents to promote the message of mercy, love and joy. We must give our everything to Jesus and for Jesus. We cannot afford to be lukewarm or mediocre any longer. We need to rise up and make a difference, wherever we are and wherever we go. We need to leave an impact in our workplace, educational institutes, social media channels, housing areas and commit to go beyond mere geographical boundaries. Let us be realistic, holistic, concrete and creative in our approach by including every person from different walks of life so as to build bridges that will not easily collapse. May as many souls as possible, that we come across, truly experience with conviction the radiance of God’s mercy, love and joy!” -- Paul Simon Julianose, Diocese of Penang

“Youths m u s t be aware of our rights as Malaysians, to fight especially in regards to education, race and the economy. We live in a culture of fear which, unfortunately, also comes from our parents who are sometimes afraid to ‘rock the boat’. We must change this mindset.

The clergy and the religious, too, need to play their part in helping, promoting and encouraging us. They, too, need to be an example for us. -- Aurelia Selvadass, Diocese of Penang

“From the ‘judgement of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the perceptions of the divine law (CCC 1778),’ all youths must ensure that whatever cause they fight for is in line with the Church’s social teachings. Social media has also become an increasingly popular platform, especially for young people to know about global happenings, and to express their earnest views. Such programmes are good in evoking awareness and consciousness of young people towards their current situation, besides the mainstream faith formations. When young people are fully-equipped with a strong sense of social justice, then we will be able to see more teenage Catholics playing a part in nation building based on correct conscience, added to the advantages provided by information technology (IT).” -- Aaron Lim Pek Qin, Diocese of Penang

“We need to create an awareness of what is h a p p e n - ing in Malaysia, and the world, which affects us. Sometimes, we find that our parents themselves are the biggest stumbling blocks due to their fear of what might happen to us. This fear is understandable but it must not hinder us in doing what is right. -- Sharon Roberts William, Diocese of Penang

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