OVERVIEW: Malaysia has three major ethnicities: Malay (60 percent), Chinese (30 percent) and native tribes. The Malays are the most powerful group in the country, and being Muslim is an important part of their identity. Most Christians are from the tribal and Chinese people groups, and most churches experience relative freedom as long as they do not evangelize the Malays.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: 56 percent of Malaysians are Sunni Muslims, but there is also a significant Buddhist population. 9 percent are Christians, including 4 percent evangelicals.
PERSECUTOR: The government severely punishes converts and strictly opposes outreach and evangelism among the Malay people.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN MALAYSIA: While Christianity is not illegal, Christians are marginalized by the ruling Muslim ethnic group and have difficulty acquiring building permits for new churches. Many churches work in the languages of Mandarin, Tamil and English, but not in the Malay language. No Malay churches meet openly, and it is illegal for Malays to convert to Christianity. Christian converts who are caught are confined to “re-education camps” that use brainwashing techniques, torture and propaganda to force them to return to Islam. Most Malay-background Christians keep their ethnicity a secret from their church. Many indigenous people have come to Christ in eastern Malaysia, which is separated from peninsular Malaysia and shares a border with Indonesia.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: It is illegal for Malay people to have a Bible, and Malay language Bibles are largely unavailable outside Christian majority areas.
VOM WORK: VOM supports local Christian workers and persecuted Malay Christians.