On the surface, Malaysia seems like a place where many cultures and religions live side by side in harmony. The country is made up of Malaysians from ethnic Malay, Chinese, Indian, and tribal backgrounds. It is also home to a significant number of expatriates from all over the world, adding to Malaysia’s reputation as a multicultural hub in Southeast Asia.
Although Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, the constitution allows citizens to practice other faiths, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and traditional Chinese religions. Malaysia has a reputation for being one of the most tolerant Islamic societies in the world.
As one Christian in Malaysia shared with us, “To the casual observer, you see churches in Malaysia. There are books written in English about faith. You would think, ‘Wow, the church is thriving’.”
Pray for Malaysia
So why are we focusing prayer on Malaysia?
While religious freedom is available to some, not everyone in Malaysia is free.
According to Malaysian laws and culture, those who speak the Malay language and practice Malay culture are by definition Muslim. They must follow Islam from birth, and changing religions comes with great consequences, both legally and socially.
Churches operating legally in Malaysia are mostly filled with Malaysians from Chinese, Indian, or tribal backgrounds. In most states, it is illegal for Christians to share the gospel with Muslims. Those who choose to do so face persecution from the government and some Muslim groups. Churches are regulated and sometimes watched, creating a struggle for Christians in Malaysia to be salt and light among the ethnic Malay Muslims.
Ethnic Malays face walls all around them. Efforts to preserve and protect Islam through laws and social pressure keep Malays socially and legally isolated from the gospel. If Malay Muslims do choose to leave Islam and follow Jesus, still more walls confront them. Rarely will you see an ethnic Malay in a church. Most Muslim background believers (MBBs) fear exposure if they tell someone about their faith, and many churches are afraid of what might happen to them if they welcomed MBBs openly. In fact . . .
Most Christians in Malaysia have never even met an ethnic Malay believer.
God is at Work
Despite these struggles, God is at work in Malaysia. While few, there are ethnic Malays in the country who have chosen to give their lives to Jesus, knowing that persecution from their families and the government lies ahead of them. Also, some Christians in Malaysia are pushing past the walls to share the gospel with ethnic Malays.
Believers in Malaysia are starting to overcome their fears. The church in Malaysia is beginning to pray for a spiritual awakening among the ethnic Malays. The time is now to join them in their prayers.
This year’s People Focus for Secret Church 18 is on Malaysia. David Platt will be teaching on “Cults and Counterfeit Gospels.”