KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — Malaysia is touted as among three countries that show “signs of hope” for Christians, in a report detailing the persecution faced by the religious group around the world today.
In the World Watch List 2019 released yesterday by Netherlands-based mission Open Doors, Malaysia scored an improvement by dropping from 23rd to 42nd out of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The year 2018 was described as “a relatively peaceful year for Christians” in Malaysia.
“Malaysia is no longer designated as a country with ‘very high’ persecution but has dropped to the ‘high’ persecution category,” said the report.
“However, while any sense of peace and stability for Malaysian Christians is to be celebrated, it’s important to remember that Pastor Raymond Koh, 60, allegedly kidnapped by individuals connected to senior Malaysian police officers, is still missing.”
It has been nearly three years since Koh, another pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, and Muslim activist Amri Che Mat went missing, believed to be victims of “enforced disappearances”.
Christians make up merely 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s population according to the most recent census in 2010, the second largest religious minority after Buddhists.
Religious tensions flare every once in a while with Muslims most recently angered by a lights at a Penang condominium that purportedly show a cross when switched on, while Christians in East Malaysia complained over a call for Islamic Education teachers to use the states as an “arena for evangelism”.
The two other countries that showed hope in the report were Iraq and Egypt.
This comes as the report said that its prediction last year that South-east Asia was emerging as a “hotbed of persecution” is set to be fulfilled in 2019 as the situation in Myanmar and Indonesia worsens.
It also said that the situation in Asia continues to escalate, as China climbs the list from 43rd place to 27th, and India enters the top ten for the first time in the list’s history.
Topping the list of the most extreme persecution against Christians were North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan.
However, it is in Nigeria that the highest number of Christians are killed for their faith, with approximately 3,731 killed in the previous year.
The World Watch List is Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians experience the most extreme persecution, by measuring the degree of freedom Christians have to live out their faith in five spheres of life — private, family, community, national and church life — plus a sixth sphere measuring levels of violence.