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Why Kidnapping Christians Has Become Popular in this Muslim Country

04-16-2017

Pastor Raymond Koh was driving his car near Malaysia's capital city when a convoy of black SUV's and motorcycles swooped in to surround his car. 

Several men jumped out and ran to Koh and took off with the pastor without leaving a trace.

"The operation was very well planned. They knew who he was, where he was going, and probably had been tracking him," Koh's son Jonathan told the BBC. "It was very professionally executed."

Koh's family believes his kidnapping was religiously motivated and a part of an unprecedented string of kidnappings taking place in the country. 

Koh runs an organization called Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community), which helps the poor, single mothers, and drug addicts.

However, the ministry was recently investigated by Malaysia's Islamic authorities after being accused of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. 

Leaving Islam is a crime in the majority Muslim country. 

He quickly became the target of online harassment, but Kohl's family says he was never trying to break the law. 

"He would never ask anyone to leave Islam," Jonathan Koh said. "His alleged proselytism is not an excuse for kidnapping. If he did anything wrong, he should have the right as any citizen to trial."

Koh is one of many who have mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Other Christians and even Shia Muslims who do not follow the majority Sunni-Muslim country's beliefs have disappeared too. 

Koh's disappearance in particular sent a "worrying signal" to Christians, said Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia.

"It's a question on our minds, and some churches are worried it may be a trend... where those involved in activities related to the poor are targeted by vigilante groups," he told the BBC.
 

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