Brunei is a Muslim-majority nation, where the people live under the rule of a dynastic sultan. The law of the land is a version of Islamic sharia.
While some historic churches exist in Brunei, no new church buildings are allowed. Christians make up just 9% of the population. The penalty for evangelising Muslims is up to five years in prison, a $22,000 fine or both. In 2015, all Christmas displays were outlawed.
Local believer Johan told us a little about what it’s like to be a believer in Brunei at Christmas time.
“Sometimes I envy Christians in other nations who can celebrate Christmas freely. I wish this could happen in Brunei but currently it’s only a dream.
“For Christians in Brunei, Christmas is very solemn. We are not allowed to play Christmas songs, sing carols or decorate our homes with lights. Greeting someone by saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is a great offence.
“Believers do meet together to celebrate but we do so very quietly and for only a short time, to avoid drawing too much attention.
“Most years, I am not able to celebrate with other believers on Christmas Day because of my job – I work as an officer for the government. My employers know I am a Christian and so they refuse to give me time off, even though I apply for leave months in advance.
“Sometimes Christians will travel to the border of Malaysia where there is a little more freedom. It is such a blessed time to be with family and other believers from Malaysia. Our fellowship with them is very special.
“Brunei is not a nation of free people; people here are fearful to even laugh loudly. My prayer and hope is that the Bruneian people will find freedom in Christ and that all of Brunei will come to know salvation in the Lord.”
Please pray for Johan. Many times he has been offered a promotion within the government but only if he converts to Islam. He says, sometimes the stress he feels due to the pressure at work is so intense, he finds it difficult to sleep and to pray.
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