A vigil marking the fifth anniversary of the forced disappearance of Malaysian Pastor Raymond Koh was held Sunday February 13 in the Multi-Purpose Hall of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) in Kuala Lumpur. In-person attendance was limited to 70 due to local COVID regulations. An additional 2,535 participated via live online broadcast.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the vigil is held annually by family members and friends of Pastor Koh with the support and participation of Malaysian Christians and Christian groups around the world.
“Disappearance and silence are tools commonly used by many persecutors, especially governments,” says Representative Foley. “A Christian leader is kidnapped or imprisoned, and then authorities say nothing. They know that the longer there is no news about what happened, the more likely it is for media to stop reporting and for the public to lose interest. Vigils like this one hold the government accountable while also reminding Christians to continue to pray for Pastor Koh and his family.”
Pastor Koh’s wife spoke at the event saying, “Whether he is dead or alive, God is with him.” She said that if he is now dead, then she thanks those who kidnapped him for “giving him the privilege and honor to die as a martyr.”
A statement released by the family for the event says, “It has been 5 years since Pastor Raymond has been forcibly disappeared by security forces without any trace or news since 13 February 2017. The family is disappointed and saddened by the inaction of the authorities towards the plight of the victim and family. We cannot describe the suffering as we are frozen in grief, uncertain of his whereabouts and well–being. We cannot move on.”
Pastor Raymond Koh
Photo from the live online broadcast of the vigil marking the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Pastor Koh, held February 13 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Shown is the candle lighting ceremony that ended the evening.
According to Representative Foley, in March 2020 the Koh family filed a civil suit against the Malaysian police and government. Trial dates are currently set for December 2022 and June 2023 after being repeatedly postponed allegedly due to COVID-related delays. “The family has patiently endured unfair questions and unresponsive officials for years,” says Representative Foley. “Even when Pastor Koh’s wife, Susanna, first filed a missing person report about her husband, they asked if he had encouraged Muslims to convert to Christianity. Authorities were more concerned about Pastor Koh’s Christian faith than his kidnapping. The civil suit is the final step in attempting to compel the government to fully disclose what it knows and how it participated in the disappearance of Pastor Koh.”
Representative Foley says that one of the goals of the lawsuit is to force the government to make public the report of a task force appointed by the government to look into the disappearance of Pastor Koh. Though the task force completed its work three years ago, the report has not yet been published.
Representative Foley shared updated prayer requests from the Koh family. “They have asked us to pray for a good and righteous judge for the trial, as well as for the release and freedom of Pastor Raymond Koh and several other Malaysian citizens who have also disappeared under similarly suspicious circumstances. Also, we should pray for the comfort and perseverance of the Koh family.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea is designating offerings made in February to its Families of Martyrs and Prisoners fund to go to the Koh family.
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea took a special interest in the case when they arranged for Mrs. Koh to visit Korea in November 2019 to share about her husband at a series of special events arranged by the ministry. Voice of the Martyrs Korea organized an online campaign gathering more than 1,000 signatures for a petition demanding Pastor Koh’s release that the ministry delivered in person to officials at the Malaysian Embassy in Korea in January 2020.
Photo from the live online broadcast of the vigil marking the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Pastor Koh, held February 13 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Pastor Koh’s wife spoke at the event saying, "Whether he is dead or alive, God is with him." She said that if he is now dead, then she thanks those who kidnapped him for "giving him the privilege and honor to die as a martyr."
“Malaysian officials told us that the matter had occurred under the prior government, and they gave us assurances that it would soon be resolved,” says Representative Foley. “Two years have passed since we received those assurances, but the new Malaysian government has remained as silent on this matter as the former Malaysian government.”
On February 13, 2017, Pastor Koh’s car was surrounded and he was kidnapped by at least 15 masked men driving black 4×4 vehicles. Since then, there has been no sign of him or the car he was driving.
According to Representative Foley, Mrs. Koh had to go door-to-door around the area where witnesses last saw Pastor Koh, asking if anyone had CCTV footage of what had happened. Eventually, she found the footage.
“It is believed that Pastor Koh’s kidnapping may be related to several prior threats he received,” says Representative Foley. “Pastor Koh ran a charity organization called Harapan Komuniti, or ‘Hope Community’, which cared for impoverished single mothers, children, drug addicts, and those who were diagnosed with AIDS. Some Muslims were upset by the program, accusing it of being merely a trick to convert people to Christianity.”
After Pastor Koh’s disappearance, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) began an independent investigation. In May 2018, a police whistleblower named Sergeant Shamzaini Mohamed Daud came forward, claiming that the Malaysian Special Branch (Cawangan Khas) was involved in Koh’s disappearance. Within that same month, Sergeant Daud lodged a police report denying he had made such claims.
“So far, every witness who has spoken has been silenced,” says Representative Foley. “In accordance with the spirit of Hebrews 13:3, we must continue to stand in solidarity with Pastor Raymond Koh and his family and refuse to let his voice be silenced or his disappearance remain unresolved.”
Donations to the special Families of Martyrs and Prisoners offering for the Koh family can be made online this month at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the phrase “FOM” on the donation (for “Families of Martyrs”). All donations must be received no later than the end of February.
Pastor Raymond Koh’s wife, Susannah Koh, speaks with Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley about her husband’s disappearance during a November 2019 visit to Korea arranged by Voice of the Martyrs Korea.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley and CEO Pastor Eric Foley deliver a petition supporting Pastor Koh to the Malaysian Embassy in Seoul in January 2020.