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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #39

BRUNEI

 

Country rank

39

Persecution score

64.32

Last year’s rank

37

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Dictatorial paranoia (Very strong), Islamic oppression (Very strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

445,000

Christians

52,000 (11.7%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Absolute monarchy

Leader

Sultan and Prime Minister Sir Hassanal Bolkiah

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Brunei through:
• Prayer support
• Persecution advocacy and awareness

ABOUT BRUNEI

What does persecution look like in Brunei?

In Brunei, leaving Islam for another religion is illegal—so converts from Islam who follow Jesus encounter significant persecution from both local and national sources. Converts can be disowned by their families, and forced to divorce their spouse and to leave the family home. Married converts to Christianity from Islam also lose custody of their children.  

Non-traditional Christian communities cannot be registered as churches and instead, usually have to be registered as companies, organizations or family centers. So, they are treated as secular business entities and are required to annually submit their financial and operational reports to the government.  

Every level of society in Brunei is affected by the continuing introduction of Shariah law. The full implementation of Shariah law in 2019 raised international concern for what it would mean for Brunei, and even a year later, the meaning of the law for Christians is still somewhat unclear, though it seems to generally not have been implemented against Christians. 

How women experience persecution

Due to the implementation of Islamic laws, women are forced to wear a hijab at schools and workplaces and are punished by the religious authorities when they refuse to wear one. This does not apply to known Christian families, but to converts. Women and girls are usually disowned by the family when their conversion becomes known. The family often isolates them, imams are called to make them recant and sometimes their families threaten them with forced marriage to Muslim men. Married converts to Christianity are likely to have their children taken away from them. 

How men experience persecution

Men and boys are usually disowned by the family when they convert or, if married, are forced to divorce and leave the family home. 

What does persecution look like in Brunei?

In Brunei, leaving Islam for another religion is illegal—so converts from Islam who follow Jesus encounter significant persecution from both local and national sources. Converts can be disowned by their families, and forced to divorce their spouse and to leave the family home. Married converts to Christianity from Islam also lose custody of their children.  

Non-traditional Christian communities cannot be registered as churches and instead, usually have to be registered as companies, organizations or family centers. So, they are treated as secular business entities and are required to annually submit their financial and operational reports to the government.  

Every level of society in Brunei is affected by the continuing introduction of Shariah law. The full implementation of Shariah law in 2019 raised international concern for what it would mean for Brunei, and even a year later, the meaning of the law for Christians is still somewhat unclear, though it seems to generally not have been implemented against Christians. 

What has changed this year?

Brunei’s rank on the 2021 World Watch List is two spots lower than it was on last year’s list. And yet, persecution actually rose slightly in this tiny kingdom. Pressure increased in most areas of life for Christians. Even though overt violence remains a remote risk for most followers of Jesus, many feel intense discrimination and abuse daily. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Since the kingdom is so small, there is no real geographic differences or any kind of rural/urban split for persecution. Converts from Islam are particularly targeted, especially because they are breaking the law. They can have their rights denied and sometimes prefer to go abroad rather than live in where they experience constant, strong pressure.  

 

How can I help Christians in Brunei

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Brunei?

The announcement of Shariah penal law in May of 2014—and its full implementation in April 2019—has heightened believers’ fears. Open Doors urges prayer support for believers in Brunei and for the local churches, as they experience mounting pressure from the government. Pray also for church leaders who greatly need biblical equipping, particularly in dealing with growing religious restrictions.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Brunei, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-The believers of Brunei face many challenges in living out their faith for Christ. The many Islamic laws in the country have been squeezing the church for decades, making it ineffective for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Pray that God will break that squeeze and release His church to be a blessing to this nation. As Islam grows, pray that God will strengthen the church there. 

-This country seems closed to the gospel. Laws are in place to prevent anyone from reaching out to the people of Brunei with the message of salvation. Please pray for God to open the doors of this country so that many will come to faith in Christ, for only He can create such a miracle.  

-Pray also for the church in Brunei, that God would bless them and use them for His kingdom. Pray for wisdom for pastors and church leaders, as they identify ways to encourage their members to be faithful to Him, as well as be salt and light for the nation.  

 

A PRAYER FOR BRUNEI

Father God, we pray for Your people in Brunei. We ask that You would bless and strengthen them, and give them wisdom and boldness in equal measure. We pray You would bless the Sultan, and that You would soften his heart toward the Christians in his kingdom. We pray especially for those Christians who converted from Islam, that You would protect and give them strength to carry on when it seems impossible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.