Malaysia: a kidnapping, religious pressure, and Sharia

By February 22, 2017

Malaysia (MNN) — Malaysia still has the reputation as one of the most liberal and tolerant Islamic countries in the world.  How long that will last is unknown.  Thousands of Malaysian Muslims rallied in the capital on February 18th to support the adoption of stricter Sharia law, a proposal that religious minorities fear could infringe their rights.

(Image Parliament building, Malaysia, courtesy Wikipedia)

(Image Parliament building, Malaysia, courtesy Wikipedia)

The prime minister has thrown his support behind a bill that will incorporate parts of the Islamic penal code, or “hudud”, into Malaysia’s existing Islamic legal system.  It is slated for debate in parliament next month.

Observers are calling the Malaysian society increasingly racist, as the ethnic Malay majority is clearly being favored, while the Chinese and Indian ethnicities are discriminated against.  Critics of the bill warn it could pave the way for full implementation of hudud, which could disrupt the fabric of Malaysia’s multicultural and multi-religious society.

That’s the backdrop behind the recent abduction of 62-year-old Pastor Raymond Koh.  On February 13th, in less than 60 seconds, Koh was kidnapped in broad daylight by a group of masked people.  Since then, there has been no word, no ransom calls, and no communication.  As situations go, this doesn’t seem to be significant except for his immediate church and family.  However, it’s gone viral.

(Capture of Raymond Koh and his wife, courtesy

(Image capture of Raymond Koh and his wife, courtesy of

Open Doors USA’s President and CEO Dr. David Curry explains, “You see the humanity of this pastor who has loved his community, reached out to the poor.  You see the hurt on the face of his wife in the video she shared.  It’s this boiling point that I think is coming to the Christian community in Malaysia.  They’ve been under pressure and under attack; they need our prayers there.” (Click here to watch the video, courtesy of

Police are investigating, interviewing witnesses, and checking CCTV footage.  But according to family members, they have made little to no progress.  On February 19th, The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) publicly condemned Koh’s abduction, saying religious leaders should be spared from attacks or intimidation.  Family members offered a RM10,000 reward for any information on his whereabouts.

At this point, any motive is speculation, says Curry.  What isn’t conjecture is: “You have a country where you are born into a particular faith,  you’re not allowed to change your faith; we have some news that trickles in from time to time that maybe people are being re-educated in ‘old school’ camps.  We know that kidnappings like Pastor Koh’s happen there, on occasion.”  The pressure is increasing with every step toward Sharia.

Already, “pastors are sometimes abducted,” he adds.  “They go missing in these areas.  It could be extremists; it could be another group.  We don’t really know who kidnapped him, but we know he was an outspoken person of his faith.  He was a pastor well known for trying to reach out to people and share his faith and live his faith.”

A decade ago, Koh founded Harapan Komuniti, a ministry that holds free tuition classes for children and English lessons for adults.  In 2011, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided a fundraising dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church and accused him of proselytizing Muslims.  That case was eventually dropped for lack of evidence, but with Koh’s disappearance, the mystery deepens.

(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)

(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)

There are concerns about the religious motivation behind the abduction.  In light of the Sharia bill up for discussion, it underscores the concerns non-Muslims have about the potential of the law’s enforcement.  Curry spells it out this way: “There’s a lot of pressure on people who want to decide for themselves that they want to be a Christian, who want to read the Bible.  There are these lawsuits that continue to come up in Malaysia — one, in particular, where they’re trying outlaw the use of the name of God in that Malaysian language for Christians.” (Click here to see read the Malaysia profile on the Open Doors World Watch List.)

There is one ‘best case’ scenario, he says, but that also has a land of shadows beyond it.  “It’s not uncommon in some of these Asian countries for the police force to pick up people to interrogate them, without reporting it, and then releasing them later.  That would certainly be the best case option.  I think his chances of surviving would be much higher.  People are beginning to wonder, ‘Why are they not speaking? Are they behind this?’  I don’t know the answer to that.  No one knows the answer to that, but it shows you how toxic the situation is there in Malaysia right now for Christians and for religious minorities.”

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.  Pray for new believers who are thirsty for spiritual nourishment and fellowship.

Finally, “Pray for Pastor Koh, but also for the community of pastors and believers in Malaysia.  I think this is an example of how this is coming to a boil.  The pressure is rising on Christians in Malaysia.”


  • Your Name says:

    Disgusted with whats happening. Pray that God will be with Pastor Koh and his family during this terrible time. Pray for the criminals to be caught. May God reign justice on them.

  • We are now coming to a crossroad where we either choose to live for Christmas or to back off. Our choice determine our destiny. I pray for pastor Koh and his family to have the anointing to endure this most difficult moment. May God bless them.

  • Geoff Allen says:

    Praying for the release of Raymond Koh. Also, remembering his family at this difficult time.

  • A Malaysian says:

    Thanks for highlighting and praying for the situation in Malaysia.

  • Ferdinand says:

    Let’s not overlook what’s happening here: persecution because of Jesus’ name. He promised us, that the world would hate us for loving him. But he said it’s an honor, when it happens. Not that we are meant to be cowards who expect to be treated bad, because we’re weak, but because we are willing to resist hate with love and let the good news shine bright!
    And there’s also the possibillity of deliverance (see acts 12, 6 ff. and acts 16, 24 ff.).
    So let’s pray for that earnestly and also that the kidnappers as well as everybody who’s hostile to God and his son Jesus the Messiah (Christ) will get to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (sozo (greek): set free, redeemed, healed, delivered, protected, kept save and sound)

  • Your Name says:

    ‘Already, “pastors are sometimes abducted,” he adds. “They go missing in these areas. It could be extremists; it could be another group.’

    Is this statement verified? If so, provide substantial evidence and prove. There is enough hearsay, why continue to spread fear? Sometimes WE Christians can be the number one cause of division, through news as such. I am a Christian pastor myself, within the Methodist Church.

  • Chris Wigram says:

    Raymond was a colleague of mine when we worked together in 79-81. I visited him in KL in 2000 and have kept in touch through contacts. Susanne and I are praying for God’s will to prevail in Malaysia where powerful forces oppose God’s people.

  • Chelsea says:

    Something has to be done about this. In all countries people should have the right to practice their religion without being persecuted. If the tables were turned, Muslims would be outraged and demanding their religious freedom.

  • Ruth K'lama says:

    Thanks for your question. This statement is verified, but we could not go into details because of the security problems it would create. Open Doors works with many partners in high risk areas. The CEO goes over regular reports from the country directors. You are right to ask questions, however, in light of some already difficult situations, more details would complicate an already difficult situation.

  • I was also working together with Ramond Koh on the OM Ship Doulos 79-81 and my daughter lived in KL, met him there in 2012 and was impressed about his humbleness. Our family and our Church are parying for him and his family.

  • Chow says:

    We ‘ll continue to pray 4 d family & nation, God mercy & grace ‘ll prevail to all. Amen..

  • David Tan says:

    A great crying shame for this apparent abduction to have occurred in our peaceful, tolerant and friendly country which we Malaysians all love. I will pray for his safety, health and that he be returned safe and sound to his family, congregation and friends. At the moment he is only to be treated as missing and the more information that can be gathered the more complete the trail that can be traced that could eventually lead to him. This age of the internet, facebook whatsapp, etc is a great help in getting to know his movements, state of mind and activities leading to his disappearance can be summated. In other words : How, Where, When and Why can be gathered and summarised and passed onto the authorities and friends and family for further action. May the good Lord bless and keep Raymond Koh and his family in the palm of his hand, , Amen! David Tan

  • May Christ be glorified in the struggles and the apparent abduction . I am praying that Raymond and his family will be protected by God”s angels and that something great will happen out of this . I love you all in Christ Jesus, Love Duane Nordvold

  • I am praying Raymond & his family that God will use in mighty way!!

  • Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world! If Raymond’s work and purpose is still incomplete, God will have him released. But even now who knows what opportunities he has with his captors??

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