In 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.
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.