Christians from ethnic Malay backgrounds are hard to find in Malaysia. Malays are forbidden from leaving Islam and face consequences when they do. We met with a few ethnic Malay believers and asked them about life as a follower of Christ in Malaysia. Here, in their own words, are their answers:
What is it like to be from an ethnic Malay background?
“For Malays, we all have to be Muslim. We don’t have freedom to choose our beliefs. It is hard practicing Islamic law. It is hard to hang out with Christians and go to church.” – Ahmad
“As a Muslim Background Believer in Malaysia, I cannot share the gospel to other Malays freely because of the laws. The government can use persecution and torturing to make you come back to Islam.” – Zaki
“If you are Malay, you are automatically a Muslim. It is in our ID card. We are taught from a young age that if we stray from religion, we will go to hell.” – Hizam
“You cannot ask to change your religion. If you were born into that religion, so be it. That is the hardest part about being a Muslim. You do all these rituals, and there is no freedom of speech.” – Nor
What are some challenges for ethnic Malay believers?
“We are not free. We feel mistreated, and there is always persecution. Even when we meet together, we have to select a secure place. Even though it is difficult, I realize Jesus Christ sacrificed himself in great difficulties. I have gone to prison and [Islamic] rehab, been beaten, and been prayed over. Every time they do this. It is always Jesus Christ who delivers me.” – Abdul
“Malay believers have to meet underground. The moment people know, the government will think we are trying to change the society. We just want to be left alone to worship our God.” – Hizam
“In Malaysia, if you are Malay and you become a Christian, it is an abomination. Those who get saved are very underground. It is not wise to give your testimony in public. When I first wanted to go to church, I had to disguise myself and try to blend in.” – Siti
“When I first believed, I stayed hidden. I was afraid. I was warned people would expose me, that I could not know who was truthful. We (MBBs) try not to meet each other. We need to be careful.” – Ahmad
What is it like in ethnic Malay families when someone tries to leave Islam?
“There is persecution. You cannot go back home. Whatever possessions we are entitled to have been taken away, but we still believe it is better to follow Jesus.” – Abdul
“For the first two years I had a lot of problems with my family. They felt ashamed of me. For two years they wouldn’t communicate with me. They refused to come to my marriage unless my wife converted to Islam.” – Hizam
“You are ostracized. No one wants to talk to you. They don’t know why I left. They believe they know the truth. My mom says to me, ‘Look at your background. You are born with this religion and you will die with it’.” – Nor
What problems do ethnic Malay Christians face from the government?
“In rehab centers, they try to force you to go back to your old ways of worship. They try to make you repeat the Islamic creed every day to make sure you are back to the faith. I told them I am not going to [repeat the creed], and they left me alone. The Holy Spirit took care of me. – Abdul
“In Malaysia they use the fear factor. The Islamic authorities might take me and send me to Muslim rehab. They try to bring you back to faith.” – Ahmad
“The government doesn’t want anyone challenging them. They are always thinking that Christians will challenge them. Some in the government are trying to go to the extremist side . . . they want to bring more conservative Islam to Malaysia.” – Hizam
“There are cases of Muslims coming to Christ, and the media makes up bad stories about them. The media portrays them as taking money from people. If we come out in the open, we get taken to sharia court.” – Siti
What are some challenges for ethnic Malays within the church in Malaysia?
“Some churches accept us; some do not. We do not blame them.” – Abdul
“There are a lot of MBBs who have left everything they know. They do not have a church to go to. They need guidance. They need discipleship and daily devotions, but there is no one. Whichever church we go to, they give us the eye. Initially it is a bit upsetting. They look at us like we don’t belong there, like we’re going to get them in trouble. Many churches say Muslims are not allowed to come in. No one wants to take the risk.” – Nor
“Most MBBs are in their own caves. They do not live in community. They do not spread the good news. They don’t try to form their own churches.” – Nor
What is your prayer for Malaysia?
“I hope to see the kingdom of God in Malaysia in every corner I see. Can you imagine?” – Nor
“My hope is that the church will be unified and continue to evangelize the Malay without fear and have love for them. Many non-Malay have gotten tired and worry about their church and congregation. Pray the church will unite and move. We will see results. It is possible if we have the heart of Christ.” – Ahmad
“I pray for my family and my people. They are very religious. They seek God. I hope they find the true God. I pray God will open their hearts. I hope they will find the hope that we have.” – Siti
“My dream is that all people can have freedom of religion one day and for more people to believe in Jesus. The hardest moments, those are the moments when people start seeking God. The Spirit in me is greater than the world. God is always with me. He will never forsake me. I always pray to God to help me bring my family to know God.” – Abdul
Join these brothers and sisters in prayer for Malaysia and for the ethnic Malay to hear the gospel and come to faith in Christ.
*All names have been changed for security purposes.