Religious freedom crumbling in Malaysia

By July 1, 2016

Malaysia (MNN) — Around the world, it seems as if governments are stripping their people of their religious liberty every day.

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

One of the biggest examples has been the Middle East, but it’s starting to happen in other parts of Asia as well.

“In this case, there’s a cultural use of the word ‘Allah’ to mean ‘God’ generally, and Christians have used it for decades and decades in Malaysia,” Open Doors USA‘s David Curry says. “Extremist movements are using this as an effective lever to try to restrict the printing of Bibles, the use of Bibles, the freedom of speech to talk about God.”

That’s not the only form of persecution in Malaysia. The Malaysian Islamic Party — known by its Malay-language acronym as PAS — has long sought to establish hudud, a more serious subset of sharia law that involves crimes committed directly against God and includes punishments such as amputation and stoning. Though not directly applicable to Christians, Curry says the negative effects it’s had on believers in other countries is evident.

“I think we need to take it seriously, because if you look at countries like Bhutan, [they have] had a taking away of religious freedoms in position of sharia law. There’s been a rise of persecution of other faiths, including Christianity, within that country. You don’t have to look very far in the Middle East to see how sharia law has had negative effects on Christians,” Curry says.

“[In] the northern countries of Africa where you have sharia law, there’s effectively a pushing out of Christians or a harassment and persecution of Christians…. So we have to take it seriously. We need to rise up and speak up on behalf of the freedom of religious expression for Christians and for others as well.”

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

That’s exactly what Open Doors USA is doing. Open Doors has advocates in the courts of Malaysia arguing for a general freedom of religion. Curry says this type of influence is vital, as it could affect the entire region.

“I think as Malaysia goes and Indonesia goes, so goes the rest of that region,” Curry says. “They can have tremendous influence, because there are a lot of folks there. And they can be a voice for a more open, pluralistic society where I think Christians can function quite effectively and be a good part of society. Or they can, as they’re doing now, continue to restrict [and] continue to make life difficult for Christians.”

Curry asks that you pray for wisdom for those advocating for freedom of religion in the courts and for the protection of Christians in Malaysia. You can learn more about Open Doors USA’s work in Malaysia and support it yourself by clicking here.

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