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Malaysia: Kidnapped pastor still missing after one month
16 March 2017
Since 13 February 2017, Malaysian pastor, Raymond Koh Keng Joo (aged 62) has been missing after being kidnapped by masked men in the city of Petaling Jaya.
CCTV footage capturing the incident revealed that the abduction was done professionally - involving at least three people driving black SUVs, two on motorbikes to redirect traffic and one kidnapper who calmly filmed the incident.
In order to track them and Pastor Raymond down, police have formed a task force to investigate the case, which is believed to have religious connections. Pastor Raymond's wife, Susanna, has also made a video appeal for news of his whereabouts, and the Koh family have offered a large reward of RM 100,000 (around £18,425).
Despite these efforts, for nearly a month there was no news and (unusually in the case of a kidnapping) there was no ransom demand for Pastor Raymond's release. This led his son, Jonathan, to file a second police report on suspicion that his father has been murdered.
However, on 8 March, a text was sent to Jonathan demanding a ransom of RM 30,000 (around £5,530).
The next day, police arrested a 32-year-old suspected of kidnapping Pastor Raymond, and this person is now in police custody for further investigation.
Despite these developments, there is still no news on the whereabouts of Pastor Raymond.
Is this suspect the real kidnapper?
The arrest of this individual has raised many questions from the public whether they are the real kidnapper:
- Why ask for RM 30,000 - less than a third of the ransom offered by Pastor Raymond's family?
- What took the suspect so long, more than three weeks, to demand the ransom? The longer the delay, the riskier it is for the kidnapper.
- Does the action of this individual fit in with the military-style precision of the kidnapping, which involved at least six people?
Pastor Raymond's family hope that, if the suspect is not genuine, this arrest will not distract attention away from the real abductors and their accomplices, or discourage genuine informers from coming forward.
When speaking about the abduction of her husband soon after his abduction, Susanna shared: "In the month since he was taken away from us, my children and I have swung between feelings of numbness, despair, hope, sadness, fear, and anger. From this comes a frustration that there have been no significant breakthroughs in efforts to find my husband."
Pastor Raymond once accused of trying to 'convert Muslims'
Police have revealed that they have been 'looking at his (Raymond's) personal history and background to see whether he might have received any threat'.
In 2011, Raymond was questioned after being accused by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, following a raid on a fundraising dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church. That case was eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence.
A friend of the pastor also told The Star news agency that, six years ago, Raymond received a bullet in the post and reported it to the police. However, the friend added that there had been 'no other death threat since'.
Is increasing Islamisation responsible for his disappearance?
Pastor Raymond's abduction comes against a background of pressure against non-Muslims in Malaysia - which ranks as number 31 on Open Doors' World Watch List 2017.
Currently, the Malaysian parliament is debating a bill to empower Sharia (Islamic law) courts which, if passed, would pave the way for enforcing hudud: Islamic corporal punishment. Worryingly, Prime Minister Najib Razak is backing this contentious bill, which religious minorities fear could infringe their rights.
Thomas Muller, persecution analyst at World Watch Research, comments: "Society is becoming more conservative and it may well be (though this is not yet proven) that an Islamic group is responsible for Pastor Koh's disappearance. The abduction, which was carried out and filmed by the gang in broad daylight, raises many questions and the Christian community is feeling increasingly vulnerable."
Source: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor
- That Pastor Raymond would be freed and returned to his family in good health
- That the Lord would comfort the Koh family during this time
- For Christians in Malaysia that, whatever the outcome of the parliamentary debate, they would grow in strength.
More News from Malaysia:
- Right to convert challenged
- Use of 'Allah' still unresolved for Malaysia's Christians
- Malaysia's 'Allah' ruling widely criticised
Find out more about persecution in Malaysia.