Malaysia is predominantly Muslim. There are around three million Christians – just nine per cent of the country’s 33.2 million population.
Every ethnic Malay is expected to be Muslim, and Malaysia's constitution says that to leave Islam is punishable by death, although this has never been implemented.
Anybody who comes to know Jesus from a Muslim background is at risk. If they reveal their faith to their family, they are likely to experience extreme pressure to return to Islam and hostility from their neighbourhood. The family may try to 'protect' the family by quickly marrying their daughter or son to a Muslim. If a Sharia judge agrees, girls can be married off below the age of 16. If the authorities find out about their faith, the new believer could be arrested, interrogated about their Christian network, pressured to name church leaders and potentially imprisoned or sentenced to death.
Christians from longer-standing denominations, like Roman Catholics and Methodists, are monitored and watched by the authorities. But non-traditional Protestant groups are purposely targeted with the aim of breaking them up, since they tend to attract more converts and be more active in sharing the gospel with Muslims.
There is evidence that state-supported plans are in place to attempt to convert Christian communities to Islam. More conservative Islamic political parties seem to be gaining increasing power and support in Malaysia, with elections due this year. Things could get even more difficult for Malaysian Christians.
“I’ll run to God, because He’s the only One I can depend on and He always turns up for me.”Susanna Koh, whose husband Pastor Raymond was abducted and is still missing
In February 2017, Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted in broad daylight whilst driving to visit a friend. Two years later, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) concluded that he was a victim of enforced disappearance by the Special Branch of the Malaysian Police Department.
And yet, the family still doesn’t have firm answers about what happened to Raymond or where he is now. They also don’t know why he was taken – although he had been accused of sharing the gospel with Malay Muslims, which is illegal in Malaysia, and this may partly account for his capture.
Raymond’s wife, Susanna, is filing a lawsuit against the police and Malaysian government over Raymond’s abduction. Her case has been indefinitely postponed, and she asks for continued prayers. “If it wasn’t for your prayers, I don’t know we’d be now,” she says. It has been a long and difficult journey for her and the couple’s adult children, Elizabeth, Esther and Jonathan. Your support is helping the Koh family in their advocacy efforts.
Violence and pressure have worsened in Malaysia. The strongest increase in pressure was in believers’ church and public lives. This was due to reported cases of Christian NGOs and civil society organisations being discriminated against and of churches being hindered in establishing schools.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Malaysia. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works with local church partners in Malaysia to provide discipleship training, Bibles and Christian books and socio-economic assistance.
Father God, we ask that You pour Your joy and hope into every believer in Malaysia today, especially those facing rejection and persecution. We pray You would intervene in the political situation and prevent harsh anti-Christian laws from being enacted more widely in Malaysia. We pray for Your protection on Christians meeting up together; may they know they are not alone. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.