His disappearance reads like the script of an action movie. On February 13th, a group of masked men surrounded 62-year-old Raymond Koh and whisked him off the streets, all while another person stood recording the incident. It took 40 seconds to make him vanish. A video of Koh’s alleged abduction surfaced soon after and went viral on social media. His family has heard nothing from the kidnappers and now fears the worst.
Meanwhile, a 31-year-old Uber driver tried to take advantage of the situation and, although he was not connected to the abduction, tried to extort money from the family in exchange for Koh’s release. He’ll stand trial for that charge on April 26th.
The case stands…nowhere, much to the family’s disappointment. What’s more, the apparent lack of response is causing people to ask why the government has been silent on a growing problem facing Christians in Malaysia. Koh is not the only Christian leader who has been abducted recently. According to locals, after getting a series of threats, Pastor Joshua Hilmy, a former Muslim and ethnic Malay, went missing last November. He remains missing.
Open Doors USA’s President and CEO David Curry says these attacks upon Malaysia’s Christians are only the latest in a series of worsening incidents of religious persecution by the Islamic authorities in Malaysia.
“There’s always been a radical element within Malaysia that are battling for control, not only through the courts, but [also] through other means. These kidnappings of key Christian leaders have popped up as one method…” which compounds the erosion of their religious freedoms.
Today, increasing restrictions placed by the Malaysian government and society upon the local churches and new believers means everything they do in the pursuit of Christ is scrutinized, right down to the name of God in the Bible.
“What you have here is a culture in which Christians have lost many of the rights they hope to have and have had in the past,” he says, adding, “They’re under pressure in the courtroom. It’s very worrying because, essentially, you’re going to have Christians attacked on every side and their rights diminished.”
In fact, according to Curry, the government’s inaction on religious freedom issues risks the country’s radicalization. It sounds extreme, he admits, but Open Doors has seen this pattern before. “You have these reports that have been coming out of Malaysia about re-education camps that almost sound like Second World War, very strange sort of things. Then you have these kidnappings that go [ignored], and when criminals aren’t punished, you’re going to get more snatchings like this.”
Given the increasing restrictions placed by the Malaysian government and society 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.