Near Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur in Selangor State, more than 330 Bibles in the Malay and Iban languages were confiscated on Jan 2nd from the offices of the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM). More than 20 police officers, four from the Islamic Religious Department (JAIS), completed the raid without a search warrant or consultation with the state executive council. The Jan 2nd encounter was the latest incident in the conflict over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims in this Muslim majority country. In the Malay language, the word for God is “Allah” and Christian churches have been fighting in the courts for the right to use the term in printed religious materials and in worship, a right they say the constitution grants them. Reuters reports that this was the first time Islamic authorities have entered premises belonging to a Christian organization to carry out a raid.
In an official statement, BSM said it was “deeply shocked that JAIS, whose legal powers are limited to policing Muslims, are now exercising powers over non-Muslims. BSM is of the view that this action contravenes a host of legal provisions, including that of the Federal Constitution. This is a sad day heralding the erosion of minority rights. BSM also calls upon the Christian community to remain calm and to display their best Christian character and virtues of love and forgiveness in this situation.”
Amid rising tensions, church leaders in the region shared their views, concerns, and forecasts for the year with World Watch Monitor.
“JAIS has acted beyond its authority and overstepped the religious rights of non-Muslims,” said one pastor. “There is no more freedom under the Federal Constitution. We feel it’s not right for anyone or any religious group to tell us how we should worship and practice our faith. Persecution has started in Malaysia.”
Another pastor, whose church mostly consists of Muslim converts to Christianity, said, “We had decided even before this that it would be business as usual for us as a church. We will continue to use the word ‘Allah’ in worship.” When asked to predict what 2014 would bring, he answered, “We can expect more extreme acts of intimidation. Whether it will come to actual physical persecution and bloodshed, it’s hard to tell.”
Many church leaders affirmed that the raid has produced heightened fear and a sense of insecurity and powerlessness for Christians in the country. Some leaders also foresaw the potential for Bible shortages in the native language of Malay. “Not only that, underground churches will be further ostracized and left to fend for themselves,” added one of them.
Another church leader said, “We already know that there may be a price for the Malaysian church to pay before there can be a breakthrough in our nation. What, how, and when? Only the Lord knows.”
Source: World Watch News
Father, we pray that in the midst of this dispute, Your Word will go forth in Malaysia. We pray for the provision of Bibles for the many Christians of the Malay and Iban ethnic groups. We pray that church leaders will have wisdom as to when to stand firm and when to remain silent. We pray with the BSM for Christians to trust in Christ’s sovereign power, to bring honor to His name as they exhibit godly love and forgiveness. We pray for the protection of Your church there as tension rises. We take hope in the sure knowledge that You are directing the journey of Your church in Malaysia, and we pray that it might continue to grow and increase and be a beacon of truth and hope in their nation. In the name of Jesus our comfort and strength in all our circumstances, Amen.