By Martin Roth
Brunei is a tiny kingdom on the island of Borneo. Thanks to its oil and gas riches it is fabulously wealthy, and is thus – like Saudi Arabia – courted by the West, with human rights abuses often glossed over. Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands is there right now on an official visit, accompanied by a trade delegation.
BosNewsLife takes the opportunity to point out that Brunei is in fact a country with a reputation for persecuting its Christian minority.
With energy giant Shell hoping to extend its foot print in Brunei’s extensive oil and gas fields, the monarch was not expected to make comments on more sensitive religious rights issues.
Well-informed Open Doors, a Netherlands-based Christian relief group, said ahead of her visit that the sultan announced preparations for an ‘Islamic Criminal Law’ to “complicate the situation for the Christian minority further, especially those known to have converted.”
The planned legislation was not expected to receive much opposition from the rubber-stamp parliament, which the sultan reopened in 2004 some 20 years after it was suspended.
In its recent World Watch List, Open Doors ranked Brunei #27 of the 50 countries where Christians suffer most for their faith. It said:
The church is not able to function freely and churches are “spied on” by government officials. Providing theological training is difficult and Christian bookshops are not allowed. The level of fear among Christians is very high.
Nevertheless, check out the 30-Days Prayer Network website, where a posting on religious discrimination in Brunei has attracted some interesting comments, including several from Brunei Christians who dispute suggestions of persecution.