Climbing For Christ


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Gary Fallesen


In Malaysia, 55 percent of the population of more than 25 million is regarded as untouchable. The Malay people are not allowed to convert from Islam to Christianity. Legalized discrimination is a way of life in the world’s most economically successful Muslim nation. In fact, Malaysia ensures that Muslims are given better access to jobs, housing and education — and the top two positions in government can be held only by Muslims. The few Christians living in Malaysia focus their witnessing on Indian-Malaysians and Chinese-Malaysians, who might be Hindu or Buddhist, not Muslim.

During a visit in June 2007, we observed:

The Malaysian constitution claims “freedom of religion,” but try taking that to court here. The court has Muslim judges. Six to seven percent of Malaysia is Christian [now estimated at 9.2 percent]. Perhaps 10,000-20,000 of the 13 million Malays have accepted Jesus and worship Him in the underground church. A sobering reminder that we have persecuted brothers and sisters in our midst and unreached people living all around us.

There are 182 people groups in Malaysia, and 56 are considered unreached by the Joshua Project.

Malaysia ranks among the 50 most persecuted countries on the planet on the Open Doors' “World Watch List.”

A Lutheran church in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital. There is “freedom of religion” here, but if a Malay enters the church and the pastor allows that person to stay the church will be closed and the pastor could be arrested. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Compounding the challenge to spreading Christianity in Malaysia was the seizure of more than 20,000 Bibles in October 2009 because they refer to God as “Allah.” The Bibles are written in the country's official language, Malay, in which the word for God is “Allah” (as it is in Arabic). Malaysia's government says the word “Allah” is exclusive to Islam. The government claims the use of the word in Christian publications is likely to confuse Muslims and draw them to Christianity.

Fast facts

Location: Southeast Asia. Leader: Prime Minister Mohamed Najib bin Abdul Razak (since April 3, 2009). The government is a constitutional monarchy. Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin has been king since Dec. 13, 2006, but this position is primarily ceremonial. Population: 25.3 million (9.2 percent Christian). Primary Religion: Islam.

Where in the world?

Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia on a peninsula bordering Thailand (left) and the northern third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam. (The World Factbook)

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