Seven Christians in Brunei Detained for 'Cult' Activities

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Two Muslim Converts to Christianity Have Been Pressured to Renounce Their Faith
by Jeff Taylor

LOS ANGELES, February 13 (Compass) -- Three Christians arrested in December and four Christians arrested in January for alleged "cult" activities are being detained under Brunei's Internal Security Act, which allows them to be held 60 days before they are officially charged.

A source close to the case believes the Christians are being detained because of their evangelistic activities and for their participation in a well-organized prayer program. Two of those arrested, both former Muslims, have been offered freedom if they will renounce their Christian faith and return to Islam.

Islam is the state religion in Brunei, a Southeast Asian nation on the northern coast of the island of Borneo. It is bordered on its landward side by the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Just after midnight on December 17, about 50 police officers surrounded the house of Malai Taufick Haji Malai Mashor in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei. Identifying themselves as officers from the Internal Security Department (ISD), they demanded that the occupants open the door. After storming the premises, they conducted a thorough search and took away three bags full of "incriminating evidence": Bibles, Christian literature, audio "testimony" tapes and other Christianity-related items.

They then arrested Taufick and Yunus Murang, who was visiting Taufick at the time.

The next day, ISD officers arrested a third Christian, Mohammed Fredie Chong Abdullah. But according to a well-informed source, the only link Chong had with the two men was a business deal with Taufick. While under interrogation, Chong reportedly denied any involvement with Taufick other than through business.

Chong, a 57-year-old retired senior police officer, and Taufick, a businessman belonging to a prominent business family in Brunei, have been offered Islamic rehabilitation, as both are Muslim converts to Christianity. The authorities have said that all the two men need to do to be released is to renounce their Christian faith. Taufick, the source said, is not willing, and there is no information on Chong's response.

Yunus Murang, a civil servant attached to the Health Department, was initially accused of evangelism of Muslims in Brunei. But after ISD officers went through documents discovered in his briefcase on the night of his arrest, they detained Murang for alleged participation in religious cult activities. He has since been charged with smuggling Indonesian Bibles into the country and given a two-year prison sentence, which authorities said can be appealed as early as April.

On January 30, four more Christians were arrested: Tokching bin Ikas, an engineer with the Health Department; Mariam Murang (sister of Yunus Murang); Mary Cheong, a dentist; and 'Ibu' Roslin, a housewife. It is likely that those arrested on January 30 were implicated by the documents in Yunus Murang's briefcase.

The authorities are looking for Taufick's wife, who was out of the country on business when her husband's arrest took place. She is supposedly wanted for questioning only, but it is suspected she could also be detained. The Taufick's four young children are not currently in Brunei. Under Muslim family law, Taufick's extended family has the right to take the children from their "apostate" parents and raise them as Muslims.

A December 24 article in the "Sunday Express," a Brunei daily newspaper, closely linked the Christians and their "alleged cult activities" to the Borneo Evangelical Church (Sidang Injil Borneo, or SIB), an evangelical denomination from the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. The article alleged that the SIB had "good money and good system of propagation."

But leaders of the SIB told Compass that the article was misleading. As members since 1984 of the National Evangelical Fellowship of Malaysia, the national affiliate of the World Evangelical Fellowship, the SIB could not in any way be categorized as a cult, the leaders said.

The SIB began when three Australian missionaries of the Borneo Evangelical Mission made their first converts of the Lun Bawang people in 1928. Today, it is the largest denomination in Malaysia with a combined membership of over 200,000 mostly indigenous peoples of Borneo Island.

Copyright © 2001 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.