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The impact on today of those “dark times”

FR GASTEL recalled in 1963 and the immediate years that followed the formation of Malaysia, mass conversions took place, school policies changed, societal changes took place, systematic expulsions of foreign priests and religious were carried out, etc.

“I was one of the eight priests who were actually arrested and expelled from Sabah,” confirmed Fr Gastel.

He listed them as Fr Tom Putman from Toboh, Fr Frans Frerichs from Kuala Penyu, Fr Paddy MacDonald from Papar, Fr Jan Goedhart from Limbahau, Fr Bertus Vissehedyck from Keningau, Fr Jan Thysen from Tenom, Fr Joe Haas from Telupid, and himself.

Though they were “well treated”, Gastel assumed that the imprisonment was more an intimidation to make them leave voluntarily.

Looking back at these “dark times”, however, it could be said that it backfired, said the octogenarian priest, as it proved to be a wake-up call, especially for the local population, to stand up for their faith and missionaries.

The Church grew, numerous local lads stepped forward to be formed as priests (still ongoing to this day), many became religious sisters and brothers, thus giving birth to local congregations to replace those who were expelled. 

Perhaps, the greater positive impact would be the involvement of lay people and the instilling of a community spirit, which plays a vital role in the success of missions.

     This has come up in sharp contrast to what is happening in the West and Europe where selfishness begets attitudes of “I do what I like to do”; the greed of wanting more and more; the ‘inconvenience’ of having more children in families, the lack of manpower in the teaching, nursing, housing industries; the inability to look at the bigger picture; and the inability to deal and integrate with the migrants influx. – CS

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