Brunei: It’s rich, but slaps harsh laws on Christians

brunei-30-days-netIn Southeast Asia, facing the South China Sea, the nation of Negara Brunei Darussalam – better known as Brunei, is wedged between the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. Brunei was a British protectorate for almost one hundred years until independence in 1984.

Brunei became a Muslim nation in the 15th Century after the conversion of Sultan Awang Alak Betatar (Sultan Muhammad Shah). The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. Brunei is very rich in oil and the sultan is one of the world’s richest men. The government collects no taxes, but provides health care, pensions, education, and, for those without the means, assistance in making the Hajj to Mecca.

Difficult for Christians

Islamic Shari’a law in Brunei supersedes civil law and it regulates all of life. The national constitution states, “The religion of Brunei Darussalam shall be the Muslim religion.” Life is difficult for Christians in Brunei. Some have lost their jobs without any notice. Christians seeking opportunities for higher education must leave the country to access universities. Evangelism is strictly forbidden and some local Christians have been arrested and detained for planning outreach to the population. Christian based (expatriate) schools must give instruction in Islam to all students and are not allowed to teach Christianity. Recently a foreign English teacher simply prayed for blessings on a Malay family during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations (at the end of Ramadan) was given 48 hours to leave the country.

A number of Brunei Malays have believed over the years, but the very strict, conservative Islamic environment in Brunei is hardly conducive to any Muslim-background believer being open about their commitment. Indonesian Christian broadcasting is easily heard and understood in Brunei. Christian literature for personal purposes (not resale or distribution quantities) can be carried in from neighbouring Malaysia. It is not possible to buy Bibles or Christian books in Brunei. Two recognised churches exist. Both are closely watched by police with spies in nearly every meeting.

Prayer Points (from those ministering to Brunei):

* Pray for expatriate brothers and sisters who are serving in Brunei. Their situation is very sensitive. May their lives provide an example of Christ to those within their circle of influence.

* Pray for the Church throughout Brunei, that Christians will be a light to those within their immediate community. May the congregations welcome the presence of God in their worship and prayers. May they offer encouragement to all local believers while the Lord helps them to build meaningful relationships for the sake of the Kingdom.

* Pray for a stirring in the hearts among the people. May Jesus reveal Himself through dreams and visions. May God work in ways that only he can do to draw the people to himself.

* Pray for the royal family and their influence at every level: the Sultan’s ‘second’ wife, Azrinaz Makar Hakim, from Malaysia; Crown Prince Billah and his wife, Sarah. [Acts 16:31] The parliament is beginning to meet again after being closed for 20 years.

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Flag of Brunei

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Map of Brunei

Background on Brunei (World Factbook)

The Sultanate of Brunei’s influence peaked between the 15th and 17th centuries when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate; independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. Brunei benefits from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in Asia.

Economics of Brunei

Brunei has a small well-to-do economy that encompasses a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition. Crude oil and natural gas production account for just over half of GDP and more than 90% of exports. The government provides for all medical services and free education through the university level and subsidizes rice and housing. Brunei’s leaders are concerned that steadily increased integration in the world economy will undermine internal social cohesion.

Statistics for Brunei

Population: 415,717 (July 2013 est.). World rank #174

Life expectancy at birth: 76.57 years. World rank #76

Ethnic Groups: Malay 66.3%, Chinese 11.2%, indigenous 3.4%, other 19.1%

Religions: Muslim (official) 67%, Buddhist 13%, Christian 10%, other (includes indigenous beliefs) 10%

Languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese

Literacy Rate: 95.4%

School life expectancy: 15 years


Brunei – Video

A Brunei photo story.


Comments

  1. First, this article is ridiculous,particularly about the oppressed christians. Seriously? whoever wrote this must be living in a cave. What are your facts based on? I was born and bred in Brunei, I have friends of different religions, christianity included and I never heard or seen such oppression. We all live in harmony. Its as simple as that. Get your facts right first of all. live in Brunei and you’ll see it yourself.

  2. LadyLinguistique says:

    Christianity is about as “deviant” as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, or any of the world’s major religions. It’s comments such as yours that cause foster religious bigotry and hatred, which has been the primary source of war throughout history. Tolerance, respect for others, kindness. These are some of the values shared by EVERY religion. I would encourage you to incorporate them into your religious philosphy.

  3. do you know the real name of the Father and of the Son?

  4. Peace, peace, peace :) says:

    @dens: God bless you!

  5. I am Christian and I live in Brunei. I never been warned or threathen to be killed by Muslim! Believe me, I am God follower. Always in Church everyweek. Brunei are the most praceful Islam country than other!!!

    • i too am a christian who wishes to work in Brunei as an English teacher from India. How is it possible for me to work in our own institutional schools in Brunei..?

  6. “Recently a foreign English teacher simply prayed for blessings on a Malay family during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations (at the end of Ramadan) was given 48 hours to leave the country.”

    I don’t think that is even half true. Brunei? Seriously? You can leave your wallet lying in a shop or outside, it will still be there half an hour later. Unless you don’t need your money, you can try leaving it for a whole day. See if anyone tries to steal it or hand it to the police or whoever works in the shop to announce the ‘lost’ item. I’ve done it many times coz I’m just so careless!!! Point is, Brunei is probably the most peaceful country ever. And the above statement just sound so out of place.

  7. Regards in regards to Christians in Brunei??? PLEASE explain …….

  8. There is certainly not the religious freedom allowed as in other western countries. We cannot have public Christmas celebrations like in other countries. I know of one ex-pat who held Bible studies and was sent home. All churches have to register and are monitored. If a Muslim becomes ‘apostate’, then all their property must be taken off them, and they will be executed unless they reconvert. Is that religious freedom? NO! If a foreigner wants to live in Brunei, they have to have been here for a certain number of years AND converted to Islam. No other option. The churches certainly do need prayer here and I agree with ALL the above points for prayer.

  9. To Mei
    Explain? what do we need to explain? people that are not muslim already say that they were never threaten or insulted and even if they do…dont blame it on the country… blame it on the people that insulted you ==” (yes im from brunei) We never insult anyone just because they have other religion or no religion..we live communicate like normal people do. (edited for brevity)

  10. God bless Brunei!

  11. This article knows nothing about Brunei. Brunei do not descriminate its people, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Malays, Indians, Chinese- we all live peacefully with our own personal beliefs. There definitely is no ‘force’ to convert. The ’48hr notice to leave the country’ sounds too ridiculous. This just proves more that your article is a 100% nonsense and is not based on facts. If you’re a Bruneian, have lived or currently living in Brunei, you would know that our authorities are slow and law breakers are likely to pass without a harm done to them (sadly, but true). Brunei is not that extremely strict as you have claimed. I don’t know what this site is about, but if you’re doing this article just so that people will have the wrong perceptions of Brunei and its religious and cultural beliefs, then shame on you.

  12. i am a muslim woman and a bruneian.. i have muslim n non-muslim friends and we live in harmony here in brunei… non-muslims living in brunei are never being threaten or treated badly.. get ur facts right before ur words spark conflicts … my non-muslim friends told me that even them can benefit from the islamic laws enforced here in brunei.. such at the closing of shops during Friday prayer.. they can relax n enjoy their break from 12pm-2pm.. as long as ur not coming here to spread christianity or other religions, then u have nothing to be feared of..

  13. In October, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced the phased introduction of Sharia Law in Brunei, which will comes into force April 2014. While the law does not affect non-Muslims per se, it does include the prohibition of any form of proselytizing among the Muslim community.

    PRAY for the Church in Brunei, including local churches, individual believers, and any serving within the country with a Kingdom purpose to be filled with a spirit of wisdom and discernment.

  14. i am bruneian but i dont like the philosophy.., its scares me bcuz its sounds like extremists (fanatic) group. frankly.from 10 years from now i think oneday brunei will turning like middleeast country…this is not saudi. its call brunei lah okay?

    • You are definately not a true Bruneian.

    • K.Idris, go and live in the Middle East if you believe it is so perfect. Segregated schools, male teachers cannot teach in a girls school, girls schools have walls built around and people can only get in when security opens the gate. Male and female cannot even talk to each other or they will be accused of zina (for just talking in the street!!!!). There are still families that bury their daughters in the desert over these things. Facebook is haram for females, but because they cannot leave home without their father or brother, most have nothing to do except get bored at home. It is a depressing lifestyle.

  15. Most of those opposing our Syariah laws belong to the “C” race. They should know that as minority they are to respect the rules of our land and not to mess around with us. If they don’t like Brunei they are free to go back to Singapore or China.

    MIB is the philosophy for Brunei Darussalam. It is our way of life and we will not allow anyone to challenge it. Islam is our sacred religion and no one can criticize it.

  16. Im also a 100% Catholic and filipino but the guy who wrote this some of them are kinda true.. The Locals treated me like a pig. Im sorry but its true some are good and some r bad :( Its not peaceful enought but they have to put this Syairah Law

    • ThereIsaReason says:

      … Brunei has always been a country that follows and embodies the MIB (Malay Islamic Monarchy) philosophy. The government is not forcing people to convert but to simply respect the main religion and to follow the rules and regulations of the country. Every country has their own set of rules and for Brunei the Syariah Law is part of its rules. People say the punishments of the Syariah law is barbaric and inhumane, however such punishments will not befall upon you if you follow the rules and not commit the crimes. [Edited for brevity, Admin.]

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