A highly organized abduction of a Protestant pastor and at least three other individuals linked to Western Christian churches has scandalized Malaysia in recent weeks. The real scandal, however, is that there seems to be no headway in trying to figure out what happened to these God-fearing people.
Cameras captured 15 masked men taking 62-year-old pastor Raymond Koh by force in broad daylight. The kidnapping occurred in Kelana Jaya, a suburb of the capital Kuala Lumpur. Pastor Koh was hemmed in by seven vehicles including three huge SUVs, which blocked his car and took him in less than a minute while someone filmed.
At first, police thought that Pastor Koh had been taken hostage for ransom. Months after the kidnapping, however, there has been no talk of money. As a matter of fact, Pastor Koh’s abductors have not reached out to anyone at all. Because of this lack of communication, police now think that Pastor Koh’s kidnapping was an act of terrorism based upon his religious beliefs.
Pastor Koh was well known to the Muslim element in Malaysia. His organization Harapan Komuniti [translation: Hope Community] made it a point to help drug addicts and single mothers. In 2011, Hope Community was investigated by the Islamic authorities in Malaysia under suspicion of trying to convert Muslims when it hosted a party at a church and invited Muslims. These allegations were eventually found to have no merit.
However, Muslims continued to accuse Pastor Koh officially to the police, saying that he had been trying to convert Muslim children over to Christianity. Many rumors of this nature did rounds on local social media. As a result, Pastor Koh was threatened many times. He received bullets in his physical mailbox, among other things.
Pastor Koh was aware that apostasy, or attempting to convert Muslims, is a crime in Malaysia. Pastor Koh’s son said as much in an interview after the abduction. The family has offered monetary compensation for the safe return of Pastor Koh, but they have heard nothing.
The police in Malaysia are treating the case as a kidnapping, but they say they have no leads.
Pastor Koh is the most prominent of many cases with similar motifs. In November 2016, Amri Che Mat was kidnapped in a similar fashion. Mat was a pastor and welfare activist just like Pastor Koh. Mat’s car was found with the windows smashed in the day after his abduction. Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Hilmy, a married couple in the faith, have also been missing from their Petaling Jaya home since 2016.
The General Secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, Hermen Shastri, has commented on the disappearances, saying that the country understands that these repeated incidents may be worrisome to Christians. However, nothing has been done to solve any of the cases mentioned here.
There is speculation that the state of Malaysia itself may be involved in the kidnappings, especially because of the casual approach that the police are taking to the issue.
The police do not garner a great deal of trust in Malaysia in general. The families of some of the pastors that have disappeared have spoken out, all of them saying that the police have been unhelpful and even cavalier in their investigations.
Christians across the world must take note of the behavior of the Malaysian government. Church leadership from all denominations should band together in censuring the Malaysian police and state for refusing to take the case of Pastor Koh and the other pastors more seriously. Whether or not the state was involved in the abductions, it is extremely bold of the Malaysian government to treat the cases with so little concern.
In a world of religious contention across borders, Christian leaders cannot bend to the lip service of other Abrahamic religions. We must demand restitution for our brave brothers and sisters who are looking to do nothing but spread a message of love and hope.
The rest of us must pray for the souls of those captured pastors and their families. No one can imagine the pain of losing a family member in such a horrific way and knowing nothing of their whereabouts. The behavior of the Malaysian government is inexcusable, and we must all let them know about it in the best way we know how.
~ 1776 Christian