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Malaysia is located on the strategic Asian-Europe sea-lane that exposes it to a huge amount of global trade and foreign culture. The full Malay people group, comprising modern Indonesians, Philippinos, Singaporeans and Malaysians are the world’s greatest seafarers, both historically and still today, making up 1/3rd of all shipping crews. An early western account of the area known today as Malaysia was in Ptolemy’s book Geographia. Indian influence was great, with Hinduism and Buddhism dominating early Malay history and these religions reached their peak with the regionally dominant Srivijaya civilisation from the 7th to the 13th centuries.
Muslims traders had passed through the Malay Peninsula as early as the 10th century, but it was not until the 14th century that Islam first firmly established itself and eventually took over from the older religions. Islam has had a profound influence on the Malay people to this day. The Portuguese were the first European colonial powers to establish themselves on the Malay Peninsula and Southeast Asia, capturing Malacca in 1511. They were followed by the Dutch in 1641. However, it was the British who ultimately secured their hegemony across the territory that is now Malaysia, leaving the southern Islands to the Dutch. This is how Malaysia and Indonesia became separate countries. With the British came a vast number of Chinese and Indian workers who now make up 40% of modern Malaysia.
The Japanese invasion during World War II ended British domination in Malaysia. It unleashed a wave of nationalism which resulted in the declaration of independence on 31 August 1957. Eight years later Singapore was granted full independence from Malaysia.
As you can now see “Malaysia” is a modern concept, created in the last two centuries but especially in the second half of the 20th Century. Its people are likewise not rooted in history as 40% are foreign in ethnicity. This eventually led to terrible Race riots directed toward the Chinese in 1969 and the imposition of emergency rule to re-establish Malay control of the country. This curtailment of political freedoms and civil liberties has never been fully reversed and is the foundational doctrine of al modern Malaysian politics. The Malay people have created a two tiered culture with themselves and Islam at the top, and all other ethnicities and other religions at the bottom. Political and economic Corruption and religious intolerance have therefore become hallmarks of modern Malaysia, and this greatly limits its economic development compared to Singapore next door. Even so, Malaysia the industrious Malay people have created the world’s most successful non-oil based Muslim economy.
The government greatly fears the Chinese and Christianity so all Malays are considered Muslim by definition and are legally off limits for evangelism. Over 100 radical Islamist groups agitate for more power and Sharia laws in political life. Malaysia is a hotbed of forment.
3. Evangelical Highlights
Though treated with contempt by the government, Christianity plays a significant part in Malaysia’s cultural life, even though Christians regularly face social discrimination, regular legal injustices and growing discrimination. Amongst many restrictions: No church can be built within 5km of a mosque and over 30 words previously used in the Malay Bible are now off limits. 10% of the country identifies as Christian, with almost half of these being evangelical believers with a growth rate of 3% a year. Unity among believers is high compared to many other countries, although a ghetto mentality has set in among more traditional churches which are aging rapidly.
Most recent evangelical growth has occurred in the Chinese, Indian and tribal peoples. Mainland Malaysia, where most people live, is only 3% Christian but the Christian faith is growing in all non-Muslim groups there, especially among the urban middle class English speaking Chinese. Sadly, this creates an even greater cultural gap between Christianity and indigenous Malay culture.
The only way Malay believers, of whom there are a few tens of thousands, can meet is in underground house churches completely cut off from the visible church. A Malay who converts loses everything and becomes a refugee in their own country, often sent to a prison for “re-education”. This makes the Malays are one of the world’s largest unreached groups.
4. Prayer Points
Pray for the Malays, they need a sovereign spiritual breakthrough from inside their culture.
Pray that whole Malay families will come to faith. This is the ONLY way Christianity can spread in this restrictive culture.
Pray that Satan’s plans will be smashed
Pray for internet and other electronic media to impact the Malay peoples
Pray for the non-English speaking, non-urban Chinese. They lack a Christian presence.
Pray for the Christian tribal peoples of Borneo who face increasing pressure to convert to Islam.
Pray for the many rural areas in the mainland that lack a Christian presence.
Pray for the Orang Asli, the original Malays who are now 10% believers.
Pray for boldness in the face of government discrimination.
Pray that the 8% of Indians who are Christian will grow significantly.
Pray for further growth among the Chinese community.
Pray for Sarawak, which is over 40% Christian, but still animist practices remain.
Pray for all rural Christians as poverty is a huge issue, enticing them to the cities and materialism.