Monday, January 28, 2008

Task Force to Defend Faith before the Japanese Imperial Army

This is a story my family and I are very proud of. I might not be totally accurate in relating the story but whatever is related here has been checked with some reference books written by authors like Lau Chii Cheng and others.

The Second World War could have left Sarawak out of the whole war experience, since it was situated in a large island, far away from Singapore and the Asian mainland. But the Japanese did not leave any of the South East Asian islands in peace. It had its grandiose plan to conquer all Asia and place its flags of the Rising Sun in every probably spot. Japan was a small country , short of natural resources but with a big and growing population. It had military plans to become a world power and was adamant about bring China and the whole western world to their knees.

Its greatest triumph in the war was the complete and sudden destruction of the Pearl Harbour in the American state of Hawaii. This brought the Americans into the Pacific War. Japan by then had a three-prong attack on the world: the Pacific Front, the Asian Mainland Front and the Southeast Asian Front. It was definitely a super hero by then. The Japanese flag was flying in almost half the world.

Before the arrival of the Japanese Imperial Army personnel in Sibu in January 1942, and after the Japanese dropped their bombs in Kuching and Sibu, the Brooke Government had abandoned the town, deserting the Chinese, Malays and Ibans. According to any aunt, she heard that when the local population realised that they had been abandoned, they quickly broke into the go downs and the store houses of various companies like Sime Darby and Borneo Company to take as much food stuff and other necessities as possible. There was complete chaos. People were snatching things every where. The stronger ones grabbed more stuff, whereas the weaker ones did not get anything. Some women also went to grab some foodstuff with some success but most of the Christians remained in their homes, hiding from such unnecesary unrest and possible hurt.

After the Japanese Army arrived, many were relieved that discipline and control took over the town. But , some six months later, on October 19th of the same year, the Japanese decided to prohibit Christian worship, and the operation of the Methodist School.

This instigated our very responsible Foochow Methodist elders to come together and plan how to overcome the problem of worship.

They set up a task force with Wong King Huo as Chairman, Ling Kai Cheng as deputy chairman, Yao Siew King as secretary, and Luk Sung Seng as deputy secretary. The Treasury sub committee was made up of Lau Kai Tii, Kiu Nai Ding, Tiong Kung Ping (my paternal grandfather), Chee Ching Nang and Wong Yiw Tik. The Evangelical sub committee was manned by Ting Siew Chii,Ho Siew Leong, Ling Kie Nang and Wong Ching Chung.

The task force worked careful and presented their petition to the Japanese Commandant to set aside their prohibition of Sunday worship. They promised that they would preach only the word of God and would not talk about politics. The Japanese commandant was impressed and conceded to their demands, observing that these Foochows were very sincere and humble.

Successful in their petiton,these Methodists started their Sunday worship again. For two years the Foochows worshipped and evangelised very peacefully.

It was indeed a very trying time for them. But because they prayed incessantly and remained faithful to God, they were spared all the unnecessary hardships and atrocities of war. The Japanese military personnel also kept their respectful distance.

In 1945 March 9th, the Allied Army blocked the airspace and dropped bombs on the Rejang River, as well as sent several naval boats up the river Rejang. A lot of damages were caused to the properties of the Methodist Churches as well as the people in Sungei Merah, Bukit Assek, Queensway, the Sibu town itself, Sunger Teku, Kwang Hua, Binatang, Sarikei, Kapit etc.

But by August 11th, after the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally.

The war finally ended and the Japanese Army retreated. The Allied Army came down from Kapit on September 17th. The people were excited and completely happy that finally after three years and eight months, the Japanese Army was defeated and gone forever from Sibu.

It was through prayers and the courage of our elders that very few incidents did happen.

Thus by defending their faith, God saw them through the Japanese Occupation. And they were triumphant.So my family and I are very proud of these leaders, and especially of our grandfather, Tiong Kung Ping, who remained so faithful to God with the rest of the group. So many things could have happened to them. They could have been buried alive. They could have been executed. They could have been inprisoned. They could have been betrayed by the many traitors at that time. And most importantly the committee could have been abandoned by their own people.

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