What has Pastor Raymond Koh’s abduction done to Malaysian Christians?

There were no placards. But there were reminders of God’s Words. Image credit: anonymous

IGP Khalid has confirmed it’s not fabricated. I’ve seen the video. It shows how Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted. The video was not published by the police or the abductors. It was published by concerned citizens. It’s an assembly of clips from security cameras in homes around the abduction site.

The abduction, in PJ, was executed with military precision. Analysts have summed it up: the capture of Pastor Raymond took a mere 40 seconds; the abductors used 3 identical pick-up trucks, 2 cars and 2 motorbikes; there were at least 15 perpetrators, including a videographer. They directed, threatened and reversed other traffic.  Broken parts of Pastor Raymond’s car were found at the site.

It happened on 13 February 2017. Three weeks later, the police have not provided Pastor Raymond’s family with any substantive updates on the progress of their investigation.

Last night, about 600 people responded to a call to light candles and pray for Pastor Raymond and his family at the Selangor Police Headquarters in Shah Alam. The organization of the gathering was – and I’m saying this with awe, not rudeness – amateurish.

There were no Marshalls to direct people. I saw no evidence of a prepared response for what to do when the police blocked roads and issued instructions. There was only one person with a megaphone. It was a tiny megaphone. (I remembered the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.)

The organizer was an individual. The text-only message indicated he or she was a fellow pastor. (Later a concerned citizen produced a colourful notice which could be shared by social media.) No group or church was identified. I later heard the organizer is associated with a congregation in Selangor.

The police did block the roads. The police cut off access to the venue.

Somehow the venue changed to the car park of a commercial centre located near the police headquarters. I say “somehow” because I had to call several friends before I knew where to go after the police barred me from turning my car into the road leading to the police HQ.

As soon as I parked at the “new venue,” my wife and I sent location information to everyone we knew was planning to come. Others did the same. By 9.30 pm about 600 people had arrived.

Frankly, I was stunned by the number of people who came, and by who they were. Some had never been to a gathering outside a police station, let alone police HQ. To “attract” them, the organizers included “no placards, no speeches” in the announcement of the vigil. (There was also no chanting or singing.)

The government, the police and all people of faith should be extremely concerned about what happened last night in Shah Alam and at parallel solidarity events organized at the same time, at very short notice, in Penang and in Johor Baru.

The large turn-out of “quiet Christian people” indicates massive disgust with the police and the government of the day.  Before I tell you the reason for their disgust, I must say a few words about Pastor Raymond.

Pastor Raymond is well known in Christian circles. For decades he has fed the poor and cared for the sick and outcast, especially AIDS sufferers. He is popularly called “pastor” mainly because of the care he shows for people.  As far as I can tell, he does not hold ordination in any denomination such as Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, SIB, etc.

He epitomizes the Messiah’s words recorded in Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

I’ll be blunt. Many Christians who came did so only because Raymond Koh is a pastor. Every Christian who is a member of a church has a pastor. Every Christian who is a student of the Bible or of church history knows that he or she may be called to be a pastor. Christians often say pastors do “full time” what lay persons do “part time.”

600 people, mainly Christians, showed up for the “no placards, no speeches” prayer gathering “at the police HQ” last night because the victim is a pastor. Would all of them have come if the victim was a Buddhist monk, Hindu priest or Muslim Ustaz? I think not, though I’ve seen many of them at public protests.

Many who came yesterday admitted they have never participated in public gatherings organized by non-Christians. Yesterday was a turning point for them. I believe from now on, if the police don’t show diligence in finding the perpetrators of abductees, they will show up even if the victims are Ahmadis, Buddhists, Hindus, Sunnis or adherents of the faith systems of native peoples.

The abduction was conducted by members of a trained paramilitary force. Are they past or present members of the Malaysian armed forces or police? If they are not, how is it such a large number of them – caught on video – cannot be detected by our police after 3 weeks of investigation?

The abduction of Pastor Raymond has woken up Christians who previously were only interested in “doing acts of mercy.” They will now be more interested in policing in Malaysia. They will also be more interested in the Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar and his boss, the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Zahid Hamidi.

Our IGP’s brother, Abdullah, is director of Unggul Arms & Ammunition, a company which sells arms to the Malaysian police force (source). His daughter, Juwiza, is a director of Nilai Arms & Ammunition, a company which sells arms to people whose ownership of arms has to be approved by her father (source).  Both companies were formed in 2012, about the same time Khalid was appointed IGP.

Those are clear conflicts of interest. The IGP is also implicated in actions which were taken to stifle officials of the Central Bank (Bank Negara) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission who were investigating allegations of corruption by the Prime Minister involving SRC International and 1MDB.

Until yesterday, many Christians chose to “just pray” in private or in their churches about those things. Yesterday, they did it in public, and discovered they are not as alone as they once thought.

Now they are putting the pieces together: denials of building permissions for churches; denials of meeting permissions for churches; denials of grants of burial places for Christians; denials of Bibles; denials of the right to continue long established practices of using globally accepted Arabic names and appellations for God; official indifference, maybe even complicity in the abductions of pastors.

Will Malaysian Christians emigrate or will they stand up and resist those who do wrong? – Rest  Stop Thoughts

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