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A Neglected Story: Christian missionaries, Chinese New Villagers, and Communists in the Battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ in Malaya, 1948–1960

  • LEE KAM HING (a1)

Abstract

During the Malayan Emergency (1948–1960), the colonial authorities resettled an estimated half a million rural dwellers, mainly Chinese, from the fringe of the jungle, to cut them off from contact with armed members of the Malayan Communist Party. The re-location led to political alienation among many resettled in the nearly 500 New Villages. Winning their support against the insurgency therefore was urgent. At this juncture, foreign missionaries were forced to leave China following the communist takeover in October 1949. Many of these missionaries were Chinese-speaking with medical or teaching experience. The High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Henry Gurney, and his successor, Sir Gerald Templer, invited these and other missionaries to serve in the New Villages. This paper looks at colonial initiatives and mission response amidst the dynamics of domestic politics and a changing international balance of power in the region.

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9 Richard Stubbs estimated that there were 1,500 European planters in Malaya during the Emergency period. R. Stubbs, Hearts and Minds in Guerrilla Warfare, p. 85; A. Short, The Communist Insurrection, p. 507.

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11 Anthony Short, The communist insurrection in Malaya, pp. 173–205, 231–253.

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22 Sir Gerald Templer to Secretary of State for Colonies, 27 September 1952, CO 1022/379.

23 Alan Cole who recorded the work of the China Inland Mission in Malaya taught for a year in Sydney after completing his studies in Dublin. From there he sailed to Singapore to join the mission work in Malaya. Alan Cole, Emerging Pattern: CIM work within the Diocese of Singapore and Malaya.

24 Secretary, Joint Malaya Group to Reverend S. H. Dixon, Secretary, Conference of Missionary Societies, London, 3 April 1952, CBMS Archives, London (H-6095) Box 461 E/T Malaya 3, Malaya (7–8), Asia Committee (no 26) National Archives Singapore 00015.

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27 Ibid., [2]

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30 Apostolic Delegate to Colonial Office, 11 December 1950, CO 717/209/3.

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32 ‘Record of conversation between Father O'Brin and Mr Etherington Smith on 10 July 1953’, CO 1022/379 (Father O'Brin was responsible in the Vatican for re-locating ex-China missionaries).

33 Asia Secretary, the Church of Scotland, Foreign Mission Committee and Women's Foreign Mission, to Colonial Office, 31 August 1950, CO 717/209/3.

34 Sir Gerald Templer to Commissioner-General for the United Kingdm in Southeast Asia, 21 April 1953, CO 1022/379.

35 Secretary of State for Colonies to Sir Gerald Templer, 11 April 1953, CO 1022/379.

36 Holy See to Foreign Office, 8 July 1953, CO 1022/379.

37 Tim Harper, The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya, p. 186.

38 Dr J. Cameron to R. J. Minnitt, Colonial Office, 14 January 1952, CO 1022/378.

39 Ray Dawson from the Baptist Missionary Society studied Chinese in the London School of Oriental Studies and served in north China from 1936 to 1941. He was unable to return to China after the war because of the uncertain political conditions there. R. Dawson to Colonial Office, 5 September 1950, R. Dawson to Secretary, Conference of Missionary Societies of Great Britain and Ireland, 31 December 1950, CO 717/209/3.

40 R. J. Minnitt, Colonial Office, to Dr J. Cameron, 11 January 1952, CO 1022/378.

41 Secretary, Conference of Missionary Societies of Great Britain, to Colonial Office, 26 September 1950; Secretary, Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to Colonial Office, 9 October 1950, CO 717/209/3.

42 Governor of Sarawak to High Commission, Federation of Malaya, 16 May 1953, CO 1022/379.

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44 ‘U.S. told: Send missionaries to help in new villages. Methodist tour of Malaya ends’, The Straits Times, 14 May 1952, p. 3.

45 Home Director, China Inland Mission, to S. H. Dixon, Conference of Missionary Societies, Britain, 4 April 1952, CBMS Archives, London (H-6095) Box 461 E/T Malaya 3, Malaya (7–8), Asia Committee (no 26) National Archives Singapore 00015.

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49 Dr H. Lester to R. J. Minnitt, 14 June 1953, CO 1022/378.

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63 W. L. Blythe to Commissioner-General, 20 April 1953, CO 1022/379.

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65 Director of Medical Services, Penang, to the Colonial Office, 4 June 1952, Colonial Office 1022/378.

66 Ghazali Basri, ‘Christianity in Malaysia: Quest for greater role’, unpublished paper to International Conference on Islamic Da'wah in Southeast Asia: Cultural and Human Dimensions (15–17 February 1993: Kuala Lumpur).

67 T. Harper, The end of Empire and the making of Malaya, p. 186.

68 Minutes of the 21st meeting of the Federal Co-ordinating Committee for work in the New Villages, 26 November 1954, Ref: 1967/0000435, National Archives, Kuala Lumpur.

69 Eusoff, Dato Haji Mohamed, Proceedings of the Federal Legislative Council (Third Session), 19th April 1950, p. 117, Government Printers, Kuala Lumpur.

70 Onn, Captain Hussein, Proceedings of the Federal Legislative Council (Third Session), 19th April 1950, p. 119, Government Printers, Kuala Lumpur.

71 Governor of Sarawak to High Commission, Federation of Malaya, 16 May 1953, CO 1022/379.

72 G. Etherington Smith, British Legation, to Holy See, 9 February 1953, CO 1022/379; British Legation to the Holy See, Rome to Chief Secretary's Office, Federation of Malaya, 16 June 1953, CO 1022/379.

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74 Eusoff, Dato Haji Mohamed, Proceedings of the Federal Legislative Council (Third Session), 19th April 1950, p. 117, Kuala Lumpur, Government Printers.

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A Neglected Story: Christian missionaries, Chinese New Villagers, and Communists in the Battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ in Malaya, 1948–1960

  • LEE KAM HING (a1)

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