Release International is pressing Malaysia to set free a Christian pastor who was abducted in a military-style operation three years ago and hasn’t been seen since.
CCTV cameras captured the moment Pastor Raymond Koh was snatched off the streets in Selangor by a well-organised team. Evidence points towards a disciplined and highly trained snatch squad.
Video footage shows three black SUVs surrounding and boxing in Pastor Koh’s car, forcing it to a halt. Two other cars and two motorcycles were also involved in the kidnapping.
Several men then ran towards Pastor Koh’s vehicle before the entire convoy was driven away.
A passer-by, whose vehicle entered the scene, was warned off by a man in a balaclava and forced backwards by a motorcyclist. Some 15 men are said to have been involved in the planned abduction.
Pastor Koh’s wife Susanna pieced together what happened. She described the kidnapping to Release International’s sister organisation Voice of the Martyrs (USA):
‘There was an eye-witness, right smack in the middle of that scene. He thought it was a movie production. My children went door-to-door and found CCTV footage of the entire incident. It was a very military-style organisation, well-organised, and done in about 40 seconds. Last year, one of the officers confessed that the operation, the abduction, was done by the police.’
In 2019, Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission accused the Malaysian Special Branch of carrying out two abductions – that of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat, a Shia Muslim social activist. Both were suspected of trying to convert Sunni Muslims. Both were boxed in by vehicles in similar snatch operations, and both have disappeared.
Another pastor, Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, also went missing in 2016.
Evangelical Free Church Pastor, Raymond Koh, ran Hope Community, an organisation set up in the capital Kuala Lumpur to help the poorest members of society, including AIDS patients and drug addicts.
In 2011, Hope Community came under scrutiny by the authorities. They accused Pr Koh of trying to convert Muslims during a party at a local church.
Proselytising Muslims – attempting to convert them – is forbidden by law in Malaysia. The state also prohibits its Muslim citizens from converting to another faith. Under Malaysian law, those who change their religion could be charged with apostasy.
The allegations against Pastor Koh were later dropped, but soon afterwards he was sent bullets in the post as a clear warning to end his Christian ministry.
Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, is working with others to press the Malaysian government to investigate the disappearance and set Pastor Koh free. Release is petitioning the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Inspector General of Police.
‘We’re demanding Pastor Raymond’s immediate release and safe return to his family,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘And we’re calling for justice. Those responsible for his disappearance must be held accountable.’
The Release petition says: ‘One of your country’s loyal citizens has been missing for three years. Pastor Raymond Koh was kidnapped off the streets on February 13, 2017, and has not been seen since. His wife and children have been left to wonder what happened to him and whether he is still alive.’
The petition continues: ‘We, Pastor Raymond’s fellow Christians from around the world, call on your government to release any and all information related to the forced disappearance… including any involvement of Special Branch.’
After criticism from the country’s Human Rights Commission, the government set up an investigation into the abductions. But critics point out the taskforce is composed of current and serving police officers.
Christians make up about nine per cent of the population of Malaysia. Sunni Islam is the official religion, but religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution. Even so, Muslims are forbidden from changing their religion. And those who do face persecution and discrimination.
‘Three years to this day, Pastor Koh was abducted,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘Yet there has been no word whether Pastor Koh is dead or alive. Malaysia must secure his release and account for his disappearance, which by any standard is a crime.’
You can sign the petition here: https://releaseinternational.org/releaseraymond/
Through its international network of missions Release International is active in more than 30 countries around the world, supporting pastors, Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.