August 3-5

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Area 330,434 Two distinct parts: Peninsular (West) Malaysia on the Kra peninsula of mainland Asia (PM), and East Malaysia (EM) consisting of the territories of Sarawak and Sabah on the northern third of the island of Borneo. Well-watered; tropical rain forest.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 22,244,062 +2.04% 67 per sq. km.
2010 25,919,134 +1.38% 78 per sq. km.
2025 30,968,453 +1.15% 94 per sq. km.

PM 81.5%, Sabah 9.9%, Sarawak 9.6%.

Capital Kuala Lumpur 2,150,000. Urbanites 57%. Chinese and Indians are largely urban.


The Malay population is increasing at the expense of the Chinese and Indian populations.

Indigenous peoples (Bumiputera) 57.7%.

Malay 49.5%. Predominantly rural but dominating politics, civil service, armed forces and police.

Tribal peoples 8.2%. A majority in Sarawak, and largest segment of Sabah's population. Over 130 languages spoken.

Non-indigenous 35.8%.

Chinese 25.4%. Speaking over nine major dialects; majority Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew. Influential in commerce and business in PM and EM.

Indian 7.2%. Tamil 1.2 mill.; Malayali 100,000; Telugu 67,000; Panjabi 66,000; etc. Mainly urban or poor estate workers. Almost all in PM.

Other 3.2%. Indonesian, Filipino, British, Thai, Burnese, Sri Lankan, Pakistani.

Other migrants 6.5%. Mainly Indonesian, also many Filipino in Sabah; Bangladeshi, Thai, Myanmar, etc., in PM. Some estimate there may be as many as 1.7 million migrants – most illegal.

Literacy 84%. Official language Malay (Bahasa Malay). All languages 137. Languages with Scriptures 15Bi 9NT 16por 12w.i.p.


Vigorous growth since independence – especially during the 1990s. Large-scale industrialization together with logging, oil, mining and agriculture have transformed the country. Many immigrants from Sumatra, Philippines and other nations have been attracted by the wealth and now comprise 10% of the work force. The Asian recession of 1998 slowed growth. HDI 0.768; 56th/174. Public debt 17% of GNP. Income/person $4,530 (15% of USA).


Independent from Britain in 1957 as the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, Sabah and Sarawak joined to form Malaysia, a federation of 13 states with a constitutional monarchy. Recent years have been dominated by the efforts of the politically powerful Malays to extend their influence over the non-Malay half of the population in educational, economic and religious life. The growing power of fundamentalist Muslim political parties and affirmative action policies which favour the Bumiputera has further polarized the country, with consequent inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions.


Sunni Islam is the official and favoured religion in PM, and there is continual pressure to apply the same in EM, where Islam is a minority. In the 1980s, limitations on religious freedom were introduced. In 1999 the government relaxed some restrictions, such as on places of worship, the issue of missionary visas, public meetings and publications. It is illegal to proselytize Muslims, but considerable effort is expended to induce animistic tribal people and Chinese to become Muslim. Persecution index 47th in world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 58.00 12,901,556 +2.6%
Buddhist/Chinese 21.59 4,802,493 +0.7%
Christian 9.21 2,048,678 +2.2%
Hindu 5.00 1,112,203 +0.1%
non-Religious/other 4.50 1,000,983 +7.6%
Traditional ethnic 1.20 266,929 -5.9%
Baha'i 0.40 88,976 +2.0%
Sikh 0.10 22,244 +0.1%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 46 3.00 668 +3.3%
Independent 15 1.21 269 +5.6%
Anglican 1 0.81 180 +1.4%
Catholic 1 2.86 636 -0.3%
Orthodox 1 0.01 2 +0.8%
Marginal 7 0.03 7 +5.6%
Unaffiliated   1.29 287 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 147 336,508 636,000
Independent [10] I 911 108,888 230,000
Methodist P 1,150 90,000 210,000
Anglican A 350 104,651 180,000
Ev Ch of Borneo SIB P 601 62,738 150,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 232 39,421 70,000
Basel Christian P 115 26,374 48,000
Assemblies of God P 201 27,820 37,000
Chr Brethren P 140 5,500 11,000
Lutheran Ch in M & S P 35 3,378 7,500
Jehovah's Witnesses M 46 2,046 4,600
Elim Pentecostal P 4 400 720
Other denoms [50]   1,086 94,500 176,400
Total Christians [71]   5,018 902,000 1,761,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 4.1 908 +3.8%
Charismatic 2.3 510 +4.0%
  Pentecostal 0.4 93 +5.4%

Missionaries from Malaysia
P,I,A 394 in 25 agencies to 37 countries: Malaysia 270, on ships 21.

Missionaries to Malaysia
P,I,A 285 in 54 agencies from 21 countries: USA 122, Korea 51, Philippines 25.

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Answers to Prayer

1 Continued growth in size and maturity of the Church despite the restriction on propagation of Christian faith to Muslims. Evangelical churches are playing a significant role in hosting and contributing to international conferences.

2 Visionary goals set in 1992 (DAWN) have been largely achieved:

a) The number of evangelical churches has grown from 2,500 to over 4,000.

b) Over 110 Bahasa Malay congregations by 1999 – the goal was 200 for 2000.

c) A growing prayer movement with spiritual renewal and a greater sense of unity among churches.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Muslims have been politically and socially divided because of the vociferous Islamist minority which has pressed for radical Islamic reforms and imposition of shari'a law. Severe penalties for infringements by Muslims or for their apostasy have been instituted in 4 of the 13 states. Muslims, and thereby almost all Malays, have been denied the privilege of receiving the gospel. Pray both for:

a) The Malays, now socially and legally isolated from the Truth. It is illegal to witness to a Muslim.

b) The rejection of proposed national legislation to impose an apostasy law so that everyone, including Malays, may have opportunity to hear the gospel.

2 Islamization has brought concern to those of other faiths who comprise nearly half the population. Any attempt to impose Islamization may threaten religious freedom. Pray that Christians may respond and act constructively and their faith be strengthened at this time. Pray also for:

a) The constitutional provision of religious freedom to be upheld and that Christians may not be intimidated by threats but rather be bold to stand for their constitutional rights and for their heavenly right to proclaim the gospel.

b) Unity among Christians in the midst of Islamic resurgence. The Christian Federation brings together Evangelicals and Protestants, Catholic and mainline denominations for representation to the government. The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) Malaysia is a more closely knit body to unite traditional Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics for nation-wide outreach, spiritual conferences and advocacy of missions vision.

c) Courageous Christian leaders who are prepared, at considerable personal risk, to reason with or confront the authorities over manifest inconsistencies and injustices in the treatment of former and non-Muslims.

3 The Church continues to grow, but faces real challenges:

a) Lack of Christian workers. Many smaller churches have no trained pastor. There are over 16 Bible colleges and seminaries. Too few are responding to God's call to service.

b) Their marginalization creates anxiety, a ghetto mentality and desire to withdraw from being the witnesses Christians should be. There is a high emigration of professionals and Bible school graduates.

c) The need to re-think attitudes and effective service to non-Christian neighbours.

4 Since Malay became the official national language, Christians have been pushed into a series of crises. Pray for solutions to:

a) The need for Christian literature in the Malay language. Writers are few and the market is still small, yet all the younger generation are being educated in this medium. Christian literature is widely available in English. There are 24 Christian bookstores and an active Bible Society.

b) The restriction of the public use of the Indonesian Bible. A government directive was issued to forbid the use and sale of the Bible in the related Indonesian language. This commonly uses terminology claimed exclusively by Muslims, so Indonesian Christian literature is not allowed to be sold publicly. Pray for a full resolution to this issue.

c) The language used in church services. Adaptation to Malay would be wise, but churches are cautious in its use for fear of any adverse implications.

5 Ministry to young people has been very fruitful with many Indian, Chinese and East Malaysians coming to Christ through agencies such as YFC, CCCI, Navigators, SU, FES(IFES) and others in schools and universities. It has become increasingly difficult to have any ministry within the schools in PM, even those founded by Christians, which makes outreach and discipling more difficult.

6 Malaysians studying overseas. The limited opportunities for higher education for non-Malays has forced large numbers of Malaysian Chinese and Indians to study overseas or in local private colleges. Many have come to Christ in such situations, where they often become the most enthusiastic Christian group on campus. Pray that they may retain that enthusiasm when they return home.

7 Expatriate Christian workers have declined in numbers because of increased visa problems. Their presence is still valued and various ministries depend on their input. Pray for the issue of necessary visas and extensions. Pray also for effective ministry within the limitations that exist.

8 The missions vision of the Church in Malaysia has continued to increase and over 800 serve with 26 agencies in countries round the world. NECF is seeking to stimulate this vision and enable local congregations to be effective sending churches. Major agencies being OM, YWAM, OMF, WBT, WEC and Navigators.



Area 132,000; 40% of Malaysia; the south-easternmost point of mainland Asia.

Population 17,973,000.


Malay 56%.

Chinese 33%.

Indian 10.2%.

Orang Asli (the original indigenous peoples) 0.75%.

Mon-Khmer (18 peoples) largest: Semai (Senoi 28,000; Temier 18,000; Kensiu 4,300).

Proto-Malay (5 peoples) largest: Jakun 15,000, Temuan 15,000.


Muslim 60%; Chinese religions/Buddhist 26%; Hindu 8%; Christian 4%; Non-religious 2%.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The Church is growing amongst all non-Muslim ethnic groups – about 10% of the Orang Asli, 10% of Indians and 7% of Chinese are Christian (about a third being Catholic). Yet the continual external pressure from Islam at every level, the pressure from non-Christian families to compromise and the lure of materialism have harmed real commitment. Many young people come to the Lord, but the rate of backsliding after entering employment is high. Pray for a deep work of the Holy Spirit in reviving and emboldening the believers.

2 Worship and witness patterns may have to be modified to survive and grow under pressure. Greater cooperation, sharing of resources between denominations and a more vital household worship style must be explored – cell churches have grown well during the 1990s. Pray for Holy Spirit guidance for the leaders and the emergence of a strong, relevant Church that impacts the majority population.

3 The less-evangelized. The Malaysian Church has the resources and the understanding of the local scene in PM to reach the less-reached, but also needs the courage and commitment. Pray especially for:

a) The Malays. The legal and social barriers are high, but for Christians to share their faith is possible. There are some Malay believers in house groups and multi-ethnic churches, but there are no viable congregations of ethnic Malays. Malays can be reached more easily abroad and in nearby Singapore.

b) The Chinese – although there are a significant minority of Christians, there are specific areas of need. Materialism and traditional religions are still strong. Presbyterian, Pentecostal and charismatic denominations are growing, but mostly among the urban middle-class English-speaking Chinese. There are no churches using Hainanese (200,000 people), and the Hakka, Teochew and Kwongsai are little better served. Rural and small-town Chinese are patchily evangelized and only half the 450 Chinese villages have a church.

c) The Orang Asli who are considered by the Malays to be Muslim even though they dislike Islam and its restrictions and remain committed to their traditional ways. In spite of Muslim offers of bribes, and obstructions for any Christian witness to them, probably 10% are now Christians. Only the Semai and Temuan have a viable church-planting movement, though there are some believers in most of the 19 peoples. Methodists, Brethren, Pentecostals and Lutherans have all planted churches among them, but the big challenge is to see an indigenous church-planting movement that is culturally their own. Only two languages have NTs and work is in progress in two more; a further 15 may need translation teams.

d) Indians. There are many Tamil Christians, but few among the estate labourers. Other Indian ethnic minorities are less reached – the 66,000 Panjabis (mostly Sikh) with less than 100 known believers, and the Telugus. Indian Muslims number some 50,000; there has been no specific outreach to them. The Tamil Bible Institute (AsEF) is training Christian workers to reach Indian communities with the gospel. A Tamil Pastor's Fellowship was formed in 1996.

e) The socially marginalized. Drug addiction is a major problem – especially among the Malay youth. Pray for effective Christian ministry to addicts and also for prison ministries.

f) Minangkabau, Acehnese, Malays, etc., from Sumatra, Indonesia, have come in their hundreds of thousands seeking work. Very few have ever heard the gospel. Some outreach in Indonesian/Malay goes on, and a few have responded. A high proportion of Bahasa Malay congregations are ethnically Indonesian.

SABAH (formerly North Borneo)


Area 74,000 Rich in natural resources.

Population 2,200,000. Augmented by more than one million immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia.


All figures approximate.

Indigenous peoples 28%. Of 38 peoples, the largest: Kadazan-Dusun(20) 500,000; Murut(13) 75,000; Bisaya 20,000; Bajau 5,000.

Other Malaysian 29%. Chinese 440,000; Malay 200,000.

Migrant peoples 43%.

Indonesian 30%. Javanese, Banjar, Bugis, Wolio; mainly Muslim.

Filipino 14%. Tausugg, Bajau, Sama, Molbog, Ilanun, Mapun; almost all Muslim.


Muslim est. 55%; Christian 33%; Traditional ethnic 5%; Other 7%.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The State government had a bad record for corruption and plundering the forests. Pray for leadership that encourages honesty, inter-ethnic harmony and ecological sensitivity.

2 Rapid church growth is taking place among the Chinese, Kadazan, Tagal and Murut peoples through the work of the Basel Mission, Anglicans and SIB. The SIB has over 300 congregations in Sabah. The Charismatic movement has deeply affected nearly every denomination. Some 27% of the Chinese and the majority of the indigenous peoples are now Christian. Nominalism, the drift to the cities of tribal peoples and serious lack of full-time workers are unresolved problems for the churches. The Sabah Council of Churches is a catalyst for fellowship, links with the government, evangelism, conferences and Bible translation. The loss of nearly all missionary visas is a challenge for local Christians to evangelize the unreached in Sabah.

3 Less-reached peoples:

a) The Muslim peoples are almost untouched. Pray for specific outreach to:

i) The Filipino-related peoples, many being refugees from the Muslim uprising in Mindanao, Philippines.

ii) The Indonesians, most being illegal immigrants from Sulawesi and Java. Little is being done to reach them.

iii) The local Malay and Muslim tribal peoples, notably the Bisaya and Bajau.

b) Some tribal groups, still only partially evangelized, though there have been large people movements among them. Few languages have the New Testament. There are only 6 teams working in 14 languages, but there are virtually no foreign personnel left. Pray for the calling of local Christians for translation work – both to complete the 13 existing NT projects and to start on the 20 languages which must still be surveyed.



Area 124,500 Forested – but massive over-exploitation in progress.

Population 2,135,000.


All figures approximate.

Indigenous 50%. Over 46 groups, largest: Iban (Sea Dayak) 390,000; Dayak 110,000; Melanau 38,000; Kedayan 26,000; Kayan(3) 10,000; Kenyah(5) 9,000; Punan 3,000.

Other Malaysian 45%. Chinese, Malay.

Other immigrants 5%.


Christian est. 38%; Muslim 27%; Traditional ethnic 26%; Other 9%.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Sarawak has experienced a series of thrilling movements of the Spirit over the last 60 years. Through the work of the Evangelical Church of Borneo (SIB/OMF) and others, people movements and revivals have taken place in many of the smaller tribes. The SIB has over 260 congregations, five Bible schools and a work in more than 10 peoples, with a vigorous outreach to towns and unreached peoples. Praise God for this, and pray for a retention of the spirit of revival in the up-and-coming generation. A number of the coastal churches among the Chinese are more nominal, others are flourishing. Nearly half the Chinese now profess to be Christians.

2 The Church is under pressure through materialism in the towns and severe pressure from Muslims in some rural areas. Pray that believers may not only stand firm in their faith, but become more bold in their witness. Pray that leadership in the churches may be able to handle the complexities of national politics and the nurture of churches scattered over a land with many transport difficulties outside the towns.

3 Growth is being held back by the lack of new workers. Nearly half the SIB congregations have no pastor, and many of the existing pastors are obliged to work part-time because of lack of finance. The sending out of supported pioneer workers is therefore limited. Pray for the calling and support of many more young people.

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