Portrait of Father Karl Stahli in Bunun tradition dress outside Our Lady of Rosary Cathedral where the funeral Mass for the priest was held on March 18. (ucanews.com photo)
Father Karl Stahli of the Swiss' Bethlehem Mission Society who was famous for his studies on Bunun culture, especially its witchcraft, died aged 80 after serving in Taiwan for half a century.
His funeral was held at Our Lady of Rosary Cathedral in southern Kaohsiung city on March 18. Three busloads of indigenous Catholics from Bunun tribe in eastern Taiwan came to pay their respects to the priest whom they referred to as a "guardian angel."
Father Stahli started to learn Chinese and the Bunun dialect after he arrived Taiwan in 1967. His closeness with the local tribes was reflected in 2009 when Typhoon Morakot hit the island and he was the only person who could persuade indigenous people to evacuate their mountain homes.
"The indigenous people did not trust the government. They feared that if they evacuated, the government would not let them return to their ancestoral land," said Presbyterian Reverend Lu Chun-yi.
Catholic writer Wang Shu-kuei said Father Stahli once told her that he had an interest in Bunun witchcraft as there was also witchcraft in Switzerland despite its Christian history.