Sultan and Prime Minister Sir Hassanal Bolkiah
PROFILE OF PERSECUTION
What does persecution look like in Brunei?
The sultan is seen as the protector and defender of the Muslim faith, and leaving Islam is illegal. Converts can be punished under penal law, and families and communities will exert great pressure to “bring them back” to their original faith. Christians tend not to face outright violence, however.
Non-traditional Christian communities cannot be registered as churches, but have to be registered as companies, societies or family centers. As such, they are treated as secular organizations and are required to submit their financial and operational reports to the government every year. Sharia (Islamic law) continues to be introduced in the country and implemented more widely.
“Believers are not willing to take risks. Parents choose not to send their children to public church events either. Some of my friends have even said they don’t see a place for themselves in the church anymore.”
Elora was the only Christian in her school. She has faced a lot of questions and pressure, but still serves God through her church.
What has changed this year?
The implementation of the Shariah (Islamic law) penal code has increased insecurity and fear among Brunei’s Christian population, and has increased the pressure felt by Christians in public and private life.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians from a Muslim background are the most vulnerable to persecution.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Brunei?
Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in Brunei.
Christian population statistic is an Open Doors estimate.
Pray for Brunei
Pray for pastors to be strengthened and continually equipped to serve and lead their congregations.
Pray that young Christians would resist the temptation to convert to Islam so they can marry—ask God to encourage younger believers to remain in the country for the long-term health of the church.
Thank God that He is more powerful than Shariah law and is not weakened by strict regulations.
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It is very painful’: How coronavirus is impacting persecuted Christians in Asia
In many countries in Asia, Open Doors has to work under the radar, often through local church partners. The impact of the coronavirus crisis is immense. Many Christians are seen as the lowest in their societies and are neglected when aid is provided, particularly in some Islamic countries where Christians are seen as infidels. Open Doors workers and local partners on the ground are doing what they can to reach Christian communities that are cut off.
In a secret garage somewhere in Asia, there are 100 packages ready to be distributed. “These are going to pastors and partners who are being sidelined and ignored,” an Open Doors local partner, Hana*, says. “Each parcel is a point of hope and mercy for their communities. They contain enough food and soap to get families through at least two months. We have planned a few dozen more of these distributions.”
Hana’s work has to be done in secret. She and everyone else involved in these distributions are at great risk of being imprisoned by the authorities, who don’t want the world to know what is really happening in their country. “Our government does try to help people in need,” Hana says. “But some of our most remote communities have been neglected when they were identified as Christians. We distribute this aid to the Christian pastors and leaders so that they have the energy to cope with what is at hand.”
There is an added risk in these special circumstances. By going on the road, the workers are at risk of catching the virus themselves. “They wear gloves and self-made masks,” Hana says. “In the vocational training centers that Open Doors supports, the women knitted a lot of facial masks. After we had to send them home because of the virus outbreak, they continued to produce masks for the teams. Unfortunately, we don’t have any protective suits, but we do sanitize the bags and the cars. We trust God. He has done so much for us.”
According to Hana, it’s also important to explain to remote Christian communities how they can combat coronavirus. “We not only give them food but also a quick presentation from a distance on safety and hygiene protocols to encourage them to stay safe and act smartly at this uncertain and confusing time,” she says. “However, it is very painful to see how our people have been neglected and ignored because of their Christian faith.”