February 12, 2021
WASHINGTON — February 13, 2021 marks four years since the highly orchestrated abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh – which was captured on CCTVs. Despite this, the Malaysian government has failed to find any information nor conducted a genuine investigation.
NGOs in DC are calling for the Malaysia government to release information about his whereabouts – noting that it has been “four years with no news.” Earlier Jubilee Campaign, a Save the Persecuted Christians coalition partner, submitted a letter together with Open Doors USA and Set My People Free to the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance calling on them to flag Pastor Raymond’s case.
While Malaysia has not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights they are party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that Malaysia has a responsibility under Article 9(4) to “provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family,” where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party.
An independent investigation was conducted by the national Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, SUHAKAM, in 2019, which found state agents from the Special Branch of the police responsible for the abduction of Christian pastor Raymond Koh and Shi’a convert, Amri Che Mat. Not until the release of this investigation did the Malaysian authorities form the Special Task Force (STP) to investigate the enforced disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh. The impartiality of the STP has been criticized as well since three members had ties to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), a federal agency that oversees the nation’s religious affairs.
The letter also highlights the enforced disappearance in 2016, of ex-Muslim Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu, which the Human Rights Commission initiated an investigation into last year.
It is important to note that these enforced abductions are taking place in an increasingly hostile environment towards Christians and other non-Muslims in Malaysia. Sharia law and state criminal laws discriminate and penalize the propagation of religious doctrines other than Sunni-Islam publicly, with a maximum penalty of a fine of RM 3,000, or two years’ imprisonment, or both. This has placed restriction on the access to Bibles in the Malay language. The government or state-level Shari’ah courts can also force individuals into detention-like camps known as ‘Faith Purification Centers’ and/or prosecute them for apostasy, if they believe they have strayed from Sunni Islam, and punish them with prison terms or fines. In 2017 the Malaysian federal government determined atheism to be unconstitutional and certain states have the death penalty for apostasy, though not enforced. This makes the enforced disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Joshua Hilmy, both ex-Muslims, even more concerning.
The letter calls on the Malaysia authorities to:
- Release information about the whereabouts and situation of Pastor Raymond Koh and the other victims of enforced disappearance for the sake of the families and the children.
- Grant the families the right to know the truth about the whereabout of their father and husband and provide remedies to the families
- Ensure the impartiality of the Special Task Force.
- Clarify and separate the jurisdictions of the religious authorities and the Royal Malaysia Police.
- Ensure Malaysia respect freedom of religion as a fundamental human right without discrimination – recognising the freedom to adopt or leave a religion or belief. Repeal Malaysian court’s practice of criminalizing apostasy, including their practice of placing adults into re-education facilities against their will.
- Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus.
With so much of the world’s Christian population being imprisoned and/or harassed for their beliefs, such as Christians in Nigeria, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemicallythe suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.
To interview a Save the Persecuted Christians representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Nick DiFazio, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.