Disappearance of pastors in Malaysia sparks fear of religious vigilantism

The mysterious disappearances of pastors, activists, and other church-linked personalities in Malaysia have sparked fears that anti-Christian vigilantes are on the move in the Muslim-majority country, according to media reports.

(REUTERS / Syamsul Bahri Muhammad)Police cars patrol near St. Anthony Church during mass in Kuala Lumpur January 10, 2010.

In an article published on April 17, the Sydney Morning Herald said the well-planned abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh highlights the anti-Christian sentiments in Malaysia. The Protestant pastor's family initially thought he had been kidnapped for ransom, but they have not received any demands from the abductors after two months.

Pastor Koh heads a non-government group called Harapan Komuniti which extends aid to the poor, drug addicts, and single mothers. The organization was earlier accused of converting Muslims to Christianity and the pastor received two bullets in his mail. The latest incidents have pushed his family to believe that his abduction was an act of religious vigilantism.

'His alleged proselytism is not an excuse for kidnapping. If he did anything wrong, he should have the right as any citizen to trial," Pastor Koh's son, Jonathan, told the BBC. "He's passionate, he loves people, he loves God."

In a separate incident in November, pastor and welfare activist Amri Che Mat was forcibly taken from his car in the state of Perlis. Authorities later found his vehicle abandoned and its windows broken. Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth have also been reported missing in Petaling Jaya since late last year.

Meanwhile, an activist who disappeared under strange circumstances resurfaced and claimed to have been abducted in Thailand while looking for information on Pastor Koh's disappearance. Peter Chong went missing for 11 days but was able to return to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Amar Singh Ishar Singh told the Malay Mail Online via WhatsApp.

The Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed Chong's return. He previously said Chong was not abducted but was spotted crossing into Thailand via bus in the morning of April 7.