By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (BosNewsLife)– Dutch Queen Beatrix has begun a two-day visit to Brunei, focusing on expanding economic relations despite concerns about the reported increased persecution of minority Christians in the gas and oil rich Islamic mini-state.
Accompanied by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Princess Máxima and a trade delegation of Dutch companies, the queen was laughing when meeting the 66-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in what is the world’s largest palace.
With energy giant Shell hoping to extend its foot print in Brunei’s extensive oil and gas fields, the monarch was not expected to make comments on more sensitive religious rights issues.
Well-informed Open Doors, a Netherlands-based Christian relief group, said ahead of her visit that the sultan announced preparations for an ‘Islamic Criminal Law’ to “complicate the situation for the Christian minority further, especially those known to have converted.”
The planned legislation was not expected to receive much opposition from the rubber-stamp parliament, which the sultan reopened in 2004 some 20 years after it was suspended.
Already, “Churches must register, but requests are frequently ignored by officials,” said Open Doors, which has close contacts with local Christians. “Registered churches are closely monitored and services are attended by government informants. They are prohibited from taking in seekers [in the Christian faith] and converts from the local population,” the group added.
Those who violate the rules reportedly face church closure and possible imprisonment for the pastor. “Because of these restrictions, believers from a Muslim background are often isolated and neglected,” Open Doors said.
“Christians face discrimination in the workplace and are ineligible for top positions in the government.”
Additionally, “No foreign Christian workers are permitted” Open Doors said, referring to for instance missionaries, while “importing Bibles and Christian literature is illegal for ministry”, though “not for personal purposes.”
Locals in this state of 400,000 people have little opportunity to learn about Christianity, with religious instruction in all schools, including the six Christian schools, in Islam alone, Christians said.
It is part of wider policy of the sultan who in 1991 introduced the conservative ideology ‘Malay Muslim Monarchy’, which presented the monarchy as the defender of the faith.
The ideology was also seen as pre-empting calls for democratization and critics have said it alienated Brunei’s large Chinese and expatriate communities, many of whom are Christians.
“Most Christians in Brunei are expatriates and migrants are allowed to practice their faith, but not to share it with Malays, the major people group in Brunei,” Open Doors noted.
There are an estimated 40,000 Christians in Brunei, which ranks 28 on the Open Doors annual World Watch List (WWL) of 50 nations, where it claims Christians suffer most for their faith.
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stefan j bos
Too bad many of your facts are wrong or are being twisted. no one from any faiths in Brunei are being persecuted unless they broke the law. Open Doors, where ever it got the news have it hyped up. This news is focusing too much on Christianity as if there are only two faiths in Brunei. well boo-hoo to you, there are also other religions being practiced in Brunei.
there has never been any threat by the government to close down any houses of worships in Brunei. but there are those who flaunted the laws and the regulations by converting private property such as houses without permit and turn them into house of worships. i am sure you will have people flaunting such laws are also going to be prosecuted in your country.
Brunei for more than a thousand years have been an Islamic country but christian missionaries have been active to try and convert its people by any means. they were particularly active after the war and when missionary schools were opened in Brunei. Muslim school children were taught to pray the christian ways to the horror of their parents. so it is the duty of the state to stop the propagation of other religions if it is to remain an Islamic state. i put a question to you. would you allowed other religion to become the main religion of your country?
the Islamic Criminal Law is only for the Muslim populations and other religions are not affected by its introduction. other faiths will only be persecuted under the common law. Muslims can also be persecuted under the common law.
in the work environment you said that those of Christian faith are being discriminated. i don’t know where you got your information. they are all lies. in the work place there is no discrimination. would you say the same in many European countries where Muslims are being persecuted because of the way they dress. if school children go to school wearing their dresses they can be thrown out of school and worse in the work place they can be fired for just wearing their “traditional dresses”. what do you call that if not discrimination at its worse form.
though Malay Muslim Monarchy was introduced in that year, it has been practiced for more than a thousand year. and when one religion is made the universal or being practiced by a majority of the people it become the main religion of the country. it is the same the world over. everywhere the head of state be it the president, the prime minister, the king or queen, they automatically become ‘the defender of the faith’…
Islamic religious knowledge is one of the subjects being taught in schools. it is only for the benefit of Muslim children and not for other faiths. only Islamic religious schools are mostly being taught in Arabic.
Man, you need to get your facts right… most of your facts are nonsense.
No, in the Netherlands it is perfectly allowed to openly worship at home, or organize a church service at home or wherever you want. You do NOT need permission. You confirm actually there are tensions saying “it is the duty of the state to stop the propagation of other religions if it is to remain an Islamic state.” As for your question: “would you allowed other religion to become the main religion of your country?” Well there are many Muslims in Netherlands (at least a million) who can freely worship, without government interference.
I am very interested to hear from you the address or location a Brunei Christian Bible School where students can openly study the Bible, or perhaps you can tell me where the next Christian evangelism gathering is in Brunei. In Netherlands there are Islamic schools, Islamic preachers and yes Islamic conferences.
Since there is so much freedom in Brunei, I am sure it’s easy for you to mention me those Christian events. No man, we have the facts right.
And as for the focus on Christians, well we are a news agency focusing on persecution of Christians worldwide as well as other related news developments, so it isn’t strange that we reported it. I am sure there are controversies over head scarfs, amid a discussion over women rights, but there are many wearing head scarfs in different professions in the Netherlands.
Best regards, Stefan J. Bos