There are just under three million Christians in Malaysia, which is about nine per cent of the population of 32.9 million.
What does persecution look like in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, the government and religious groups monitor churches and it is illegal to share the gospel with Malay Muslims. Converts from Islam to Christianity experience the most persecution, as every ethnic Malay is expected to be Muslim. These believers are often forced to hide their faith and meet in secret. If discovered, they could face divorce from their spouse, rejection from their family—or even risk being sent to a re-education camp.
This is why pressure is most extreme in the family and community life spheres for Malay believers. Whoever leaves Islam is not just going against Malaysia’s constitution, but also against society at large—pitting believers against their own family members and neighbours.
However, apart from the abduction of certain Christians in recent years, persecution has rarely been violent in Malaysia. Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth have been missing for more than three years now, after they disappeared from their home in the state of Selangor. Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted while driving on a busy road in the city of Petaling Jaya and has been missing since February 2017. His whereabouts are still unknown, and according to the findings of the country`s human rights commission, Malaysia’s Special Branch of the police was involved in the abduction.
There are no hotspots of persecution for Christians in Malaysia. However, the Islamic missionary work among Christians—especially among the Bumiputra people group—focuses on East Malaysia. As the number of migrating Muslims grew in the region, specifically in Sabah State, the area’s religious affiliation ceased to be Christian-majority several years ago.
“When I was a Muslim, I prayed five times a day during my teens to please my parents. I read and recited the Quran. I fasted. But I had never experienced anything like [Christ] before.”Aina
What has changed compared to last year?
Though Malaysia dropped by six ranks on the 2021 World Watch List from last year, the reality of persecution in the country remained largely unchanged. While there was some hope for a new openness in Malaysia after elections in 2018, to a great extent this has not happened. The hopes that came with the new government and its seeming commitment to more religious liberty have been replaced with disappointment, and persecution against followers of Jesus has not changed much at all.
Given the increasing restrictions that the Malaysian government and society places upon the local churches and new believers, Open Doors calls for prayers from Christians, worldwide. Prayers are especially needed for new believers who are thirsty for spiritual nourishment and fellowship.
- Pray for believers who seek to meet in secret. Ask God to give them meaningful times of worship and fellowship—along with the protection they need to gather safely.
- Pray for religious freedom across Malaysia. Today, it is illegal to share the gospel with Malay Muslims—and it is also unlawful for Malay Muslims to leave Islam for Christianity.
- Pray for Malay believers who have left Islam and are often isolated and cut off from their family members for embracing Jesus. Ask God to give them special grace and that they would know and feel they are never alone.
Dear Father, we ask that You would break down the strongholds that seek to contain the Good News of Jesus in Malaysia. Please provide a way for more people to hear the gospel, receive it, and find true hope in the Lord. Strengthen the Church in this season, Lord, and prepare her for the work You have laid out for her to do. We pray that You would grow your Kingdom in Malaysia in a powerful way and show many Malay Muslims who Christ is.