Malaysia - (Asia)

Information about Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur
329733 square kilometres
"Peninsular Malaysia: Muslim (Malays), Buddhist (Chinese), Hindu (Indians), Christian 2% Sabah: Muslim 38%, Christian 27%, other 45%; Sarawak: tribal religion 35%, Buddhist and Confucianist 24%, Muslim 20%, Christian 29%, other 5%"
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

The Malaysian Confederation comprises two geographical areas — the Malaysian peninsula (Melaka) and the northern part of Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah). The Malaysian peninsula became independent from Great Britain in 1957. In 1963 Britain also incorporated the crown colony of Singapore and the colonial territories of Sarawak and Sabah into the Confederation. Two years later Singapore withdrew and became a separate state (cf. Singapore). The two areas, lying at a distance of about 600 km apart, are very different in cultural background and social conditions and have had different histories. The population of the peninsula is basically composed of three ethnic groups — Malayan, Chinese, and Hindu. In North Borneo indigenous peoples — Iban, Dayak, Kadazan, etc. — make up a significant part of the population. The Malayan population is generally Muslim; Christianity is primarily represented among the Chinese and the indigenous peo-ples. While Christians on the peninsula represent not more than 2%, they are stronger in North Borneo — 29% in Sarawak and 27% in Sabah.
The earliest contact of Malaysia with the Ref tradition was through the Dutch who conquered Catholic Melaka in 1641 and built the now famous Christ Church Melaka in 1753. In 1815 the LMS began mission work in Melaka (Penang and Singapore); they decided, however, to leave for China in the 1840s. At that time the Scottish community took steps to call its own ministers. Missionaries arrived in Penang in 1851 and in Singapore in 1856. They took evangelistic initiatives beyond the boundaries of the Scottish communities. The Malay chapel at Prinsep Street in Singapore became the center of a major outreach among Malay-speaking Chinese whose ancestors had been in Malaya for several hundred years.
A new chapter began in 1861. The Orchard Road congregation in Singapore obtained the services of a full-time missionary, A. B. Cook, who was to work among the Chinese, who were arriving in considerable numbers from Swatow and South Fukien. This new departure was eventually chosen as marking the founding of the present Presbyterian Churches in Malaysia and Singapore. Missionaries from the Presbyterian Church in England who had been working in these areas in China and had seen many of their converts migrating to Malaysia supported this arrangement. Therefore, from this time, the church in Malaysia has been related to the Presbyterian Church of England rather than to the Church of Scotland. The number of Chinese congregations steadily increased, and in 1901 the Singapore Presbyterian Synod was established. An important witness was given by the first Chinese missionary, Pastor Tay Sek Tin, who started work in Malaysia in 1897. From 1901 to 1938 the mission grew from 8 to 16 congregations and 3 preaching stations, about equally divided between Singapore and Johor.
Meanwhile the expatriate English-speaking communities continued separately. Two new churches for expatriates were opened in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh.
After World War II a further expansion of the Presbyterian Synod occurred. In 1962 the Chinese Presbyterian Synod gave itself a new structure; three presbyteries were formed — Singapore, South Malaysia and North Malaysia; some churches outside presbytery boundaries were placed under the direct authority of the synod. At the end of 1967 the Chinese congregations numbered 13 in Singapore and 15 in Malaya with a communicant membership of 2,650. In 1971 the expatriate congregations, which in 1958 had become more independent from the Presbyterian Church in England by forming their own presbytery, decided to join the Chinese Synod and to form the Presbyterian Church of Singapore and Malaysia. It was the union of two Presbyterian groups from different cultural backgrounds (British and Chinese) which had established them in a country of different culture, language, and religion (Malaysia).
The formation and history of the churches in North Borneo are closely connected with that of China. When the Taiping Revolution, a social and religious revolt against the Mandschu dynasty, failed in 1864, hundreds of thousands of Chinese farmers and landless laborers were in great difficulty. Many emigrated to various southeast Asian countries. The British Chartered Company entered North Borneo in 1878 and offered new homes to Chinese settlers. With these settlers the RCath and Angl churches came to North Borneo, and the Basel Mission also began work there. The victory of the Communist revolution under Mao Tse-Tung in 1949 brought a new influx of Christian refugees to North Borneo.



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