MALAYSIA: Inquiry into disappearance of Christian couple to resume

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour — from violent people you save me.”
(2 Samuel 22:2–3)

The NGO Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (aka Suhakam) is to resume its inquiry into whether the 2016 disappearance of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth Sitepu, was an “enforced disappearance” — that is to say, whether state agents were involved in abducting them.

The family of Ruth said they were encouraged by Suhakam’s commitment to the inquiry: “This public inquiry is our hope of finding our sister Ruth and brother-in-law Joshua.”

Joshua, a Malay from Taiping, Perak who converted to Christianity from Islam, and Ruth, a Batak Christian from Indonesia, were last seen on 30 November 2016 and reported missing on 6 March 2017. The inquiry resumes as their families fear that the government has been delaying efforts to uncover the truth.

Suhakam commissioner, Jerald Joseph, said that they would finalise the dates for the inquiry’s resumption with stakeholders and lawyers after confirming the easing of restrictions enforced in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that they had planned for 15 days for the inquiry, but this was an estimate that depended on how the inquiry developed.

Before it was postponed because of the restrictions, the inquiry had heard from a witness that the couple were intending to flee the country after receiving threatening phone calls and emails over Joshua’s alleged preaching of Christianity to Muslims and baptizing those who convert. The inquiry also learnt that Hilmy had been baptizing converts since 2011, usually in bathrooms using a showerhead and once in a pond.

Muslim citizens of Malaysia are prohibited from converting to other religions unless they receive the consent of a Shariah court. Islam is the country’s official religion.

Suhakam commissioned a similar inquiry to probe the separate disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat. They reported their findings in April 2019 — both men were victims of enforced disappearances. They had been abducted by the Special Branch, an intelligence unit of the Royal Malaysia Police.

Suhakam said it was likely that Joshua and Ruth had disappeared for the same reason. Police have denied this allegation.

More than 9 percent of Malaysia’s population of 31.5 million are Christians.

Home Group Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

These are difficult times, Lord, even for those of us who are free to worship you without persecution. How much more do your sons and daughters suffer for you in countries like Malaysia, where they must endure bias, hatred, violence and even abduction and death at the hands of those who do not know you.

Lord, we ask you give your faithful in Malaysia an extra dose of your divine peace, strength, fortitude, grace and love to withstand the onslaught of these spiritual, emotional and physical slings and arrows. Lord, endow them with supernatural capacity and ability to stand up to their attackers, knowing you are there with them, Lord, and you are their eternal refuge and fortress and saviour.

Lord, we also ask you touch the hearts of the persecutors, that the scales might fall from their eyes, that they might see you through those they persecute and be convicted of their sinful ways, and cry out and fall to the ground worshipping you as the One True God. And unite this divided land as only you can, oh God.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


“Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that
God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?”
(Psalm 68:16)

A group of armed men in Pakistan vandalized a church in Punjab province in early May.  Police said the group desecrated a cross and demolished the gate and boundary wall of the church in Kala Shah Kaku town, some 40 km from Lahore, the provincial capital. The alleged cause was a land dispute — the group told Christians to vacate the church land, claiming it belonged to them.  Church leaders lodged a police complaint following the incident.

The incident occurred as the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan pointed out in their 2019 annual report that Christians have continued to suffer forced conversions and persecution under the country’s blasphemy law.  The report noted particular cases of forced conversion in Sindh and Punjab provinces.  In Punjab, 14-year-old girls had been forced to convert and to marry.  In Sindh, the families of two Hindu girls claimed they had been kidnapped for marriage and forced conversion.  According to human rights NGO International Christian Concern, at least 50 Christian women and girls faced this issue in 2019.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has not reduced discrimination against Christians in Pakistan.  Authorities have apparently denied food supplies to them by claiming they were meant for Muslims.

Christians in Pakistan often face religious hatred and discrimination.  The country’s blasphemy law is controversial because it is often used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities, with consequences for their places of worship and residential areas. Blasphemy against prophets of Islam is a capital crime in Pakistan.  According to Open Doors, a mission supporting persecuted believers, Pakistani Christians are afraid to express their faith freely in case something they say is interpreted as blasphemy.  False accusations of blasphemy have led to imprisonment or even killings.

Christians constitute around two percent of the population in Pakistan.  Christian communities remain among the poorest sections of society, often do menial jobs, and are regarded as second-class citizens.  Three cities, Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad, have large Christian populations.

Pakistan is currently fifth on the World Watch List, an annual report by Open Doors.  It is considered a country where extreme persecution of Christians takes place.


Heavenly Father,

We ask your blessings for the people of Pakistan and especially for Christians who are suffering from persecution there. We pray for the church in Kala Shah Kaku and its pastor and congregation.  May they be strong when faced with violence.  We pray for those imprisoned or suffering unjustly from the blasphemy law. We pray that you will help the people who practise violence to see the light and that way is not the answer. We pray that your Holy Spirit will descend on this community and all of Pakistan and cleanse it of religious and other persecution.

Especially in these times of the coronavirus, we pray that people will come together rather than pull apart. We need your spirit of peace and strength to get through these difficult times. We pray that your Holy Spirit will help the government and people of Pakistan turn it into a country where extreme persecution no longer exists. We pray that all will work together in peace and harmony to deal with the coronavirus and all the other ills which affect the country.

Watch over your flock in Pakistan and bring them safely to a land of peace and harmony.  May your Spirit comfort them and keep them safe from persecution and the coronavirus. We need your help and guidance in all we do.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.