No sign of kidnapped Malaysian pastor, one year on
Raymond Koh’s wife Susanna believes state and police forces know where her husband is
A year ago, 15 men violently pulled Raymond Koh from his car in broad daylight, near the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The 63-year-old pastor has not been seen or heard from since.
While no one has claimed responsibility for his abduction, Raymond’s wife Susanna Liew believes he is being held by someone acting with “the knowledge and acquiescence of the [Malaysian] Government.” She is critical of the police and legislative processes surrounding her husband’s case.
“Many questions remained unanswered and investigations seem to be stalled.” – Susanna Liew
“We are no closer to finding the truth of what happened to him, where he is and who has abducted him,” Susanna tells Eternity, almost a year to the day since Raymond was kidnapped on February 13, 2017. “And this is after my children had managed to secure two CCTV footages from the residences around the crime scene and handed them to the police. It showed very clearly it was like a police operation. Moreover, investigations have been focused on investigating the victim rather than apprehending his abductors.
“Many questions remained unanswered and investigations seem to be stalled. We do not know what to do or where to go from here.”
Frustration with the police investigation prompted Raymond’s supporters to submit a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia in July last year. In a country where Islam is the official religion and state laws prohibit proselytising by Christians, Raymond’s high-profile case generated an HRC public inquiry late last year. But the re-arrest in January of a lead suspect – who had been cleared of involvement – caused the inquiry to be stopped on a legal technicality.
“I felt helpless and hopeless,” explains Susanna about the inquiry’s “abrupt stop” earlier this year. “My lawyer said it was a sad day for human rights in Malaysia, and for truth and justice, when they suspended the inquiry. I agree with him.”
Such obstacles to pursuing Raymond’s case, and the nature of his abduction, contribute to why Susanna believes “he has been arrested by part-religious, part-state or rogue elements of the police force with the knowledge and acquiescence of the Government”.
“We will never know what happened to Raymond if the inquiry does not resume.” – Susanna Liew
She dismisses theories that Raymond has been kidnapped by religious extremists or extortionists. “We will never know what happened to Raymond if the inquiry does not resume. This is not justice. The police, of all people, are supposed to uphold law and order.”
Raymond is a prominent Christian leader who left his pastoral ministry role in 2004 to establish Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community), a not-for-profit aimed at bringing “love, hope, peace and dignity to the poor, needy and marginalised.” Harapan works in prisons, HIV shelters, with single mothers and impoverished children.
Raymond, Susanna and other friends also reached out to homeless people with simple hospitality, such as a monthly “Birthday Bash” for those on Kuala Lumpur’s streets. “We provided fried rice or fried noodles and hot tea. A birthday song was sung for the person whose birthday falls on that month and he got to cut the cake and celebrate with all of us.
“People were touched and some even had tears in their eyes that people cared for them. We have stopped this since Raymond’s abduction due to lack of resources.”
Before his abduction, Raymond’s family experienced attacks and threats. In 2011, police raided a fundraising event and, several weeks later, Raymond received a death threat with two bullets. Susanna was mailed a pungent white powder marked “Anthrax”. During the same year, Islamic authorities investigated Harapan Komuniti after it was accused of attempting to convert Muslims. Those allegations were dropped.
Susanna also claims her family has been followed, been subjected to online hate speech, and received “intimidation and harassment by the Special Branch of the Police”.
“Sometimes I cry in the shower or in the car so that no one can see me.” – Susanna Liew
The past 12 months have been “challenging and stressful”, Susanna says. She feels that her life collapsed on February 13 last year and, since then, her feelings have been a like a yo-yo. “At times I am doing all right and at other times I am feeling down and discouraged.”
“Sometimes I cry in the shower or in the car so that no one can see me. I tell myself I have to be strong for my children. I tell myself that I have to fight for Raymond’s freedom and release. I tell myself that I want the truth to be revealed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.
“I was feeling very low over the Christmas and New Year period but many Christians sent words of encouragement and Scripture verses in beautiful memes to me. God used those words to lift me up and give me hope for the coming year of 2018.”
Susanna appreciates media coverage of Raymond’s abduction and the spotlight it places upon her family’s situation. She also is grateful for how Malaysia’s churches have stood in solidarity with her and her family, particularly their outpouring of prayer and how “Christian leaders have spoken out against the persecution of faith workers.” She is eager for more prayer for Raymond’s release, as well as the resumption of the public inquiry into Raymond’s case, and that truth and justice will be upheld.
We continue to fight for the rights of Raymond and others who have been disappeared without a trace.” – Susanna Liew
There are times when Susanna questions God. Why is she still waiting for answers? When will Raymond be released? What is happening at a legal level? Yet she describes a “sense of peace in my heart that God is in control,” even amid the uncertainty surrounding Raymond.
“I am also comforted to hear God’s assurance to me, ‘I know what I am doing.’ I believe God’s grace is sufficient for me and my family.”
“We press on despite how we feel. We continue to fight for the rights of Raymond and others who have been disappeared without a trace.”