Christian woman’s conversion goes unrecognized in Malaysia

By May 31, 2007

Malaysia (MNN) — Lina Joy is Malaysia's best-known Christian convert. She also just lost a watermark case to change her religious identity. Open Doors' Paul Estabrooks says after waging a six-year battle, the country's highest court rejected the change. "She became a Christian at the age of 26 and wants to marry a Christian boyfriend. But she can't do that as long as her identity card declares her to be a Muslim. They ruled that she may not change her ID card."

The issue is the jurisdictive balance between civil courts and the Islamic courts. The ruling has believers concerned over the damage this might cause to their right to practice and share their faith. Muslims, meanwhile, believe that civil courts have no right to meddle in Islamic affairs. 

"The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it's under the Sharia court," he explains, adding that the opinion is that "the civil court cannot intervene." That said, the three-judge appeal bench ruled 2-1 against Joy. The one dissention came from the only non-Muslim judge on the bench who argued the department responsible for issuing identity cards should have complied with Joy's request and removed "Islam" from it.

Estabrooks says that in the foreseeable future, "We're there to encourage believers and to share with them the principles that we learn from persecuted Christians around the world. That's primarily what our ministry in Malaysia is: to encourage the church to help them overcome fear and to be strong in their commitment to sharing Jesus' love with other people."

Malaysia has been under Islamic influence since the 15th century, but with Chinese and Indian immigrants now mixing into the population, the Muslims account for roughly 60-percent of the population. Continue to pray for believers as they wait to see how this precedent will be used in the future.

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