Area: 330,434 sq km Two distinct parts: Peninsular (West) Malaysia on the Kra peninsula of mainland Asia, and East Malaysia consisting of the territories of Sarawak and Sabah on the northern third of the island of Borneo. Well-watered, tropical rainforest.
Capital: Kuala Lumpur 1,519,166
Economy: Export-based nation producing rubber, palm oil, petroleum and forest and agricultural products as well as, increasingly, hi-tech manufacturing. Large-scale industrialization and increased exploitation of natural resources has rapidly boosted the economy. Government-enforced programes since 1971 include positive discrimination in order to uplift the Malay and indigenous populations' economic status to a level closer to the Chinese and Indian groups who have dominated the economy since before independence. A new wave of immigrants from poorer Asian countries, attracted by the wealth, continues to increase.
Politics: Independent from Britain in 1957 as the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, Sabah and Sarawak joined to form Malaysia, a federation of 13 states with a constitutional monarchy. Recent years have been dominated by the efforts of the politically powerful Malays to extend their influence over the non-Malay half of the population in educational, economic and religious life, enriching and empowering themselves, while many normal Malays are left behind. The ruling party has recently lost its majority to a broad coalition of Chinese, liberal and Islamist parties. Political Islam, both in the ruling party as well Islamist opposition groups, threatens to further polarize the country on both religious and ethnic lines.
Religion: Sunni Islam is the official religion. Despite constitutional freedoms, discriminatory legislation and actions against minorities seem to be creeping in. Shari'a law, applicable for Muslims only, actually supersedes constitutional law on many issues, a portentous issue in a country with a strong and agitating Islamist movement. Proselytism of Muslims is illegal, but considerable effort and lawmaking is exercised to induce tribal peoples and other minorities to become Muslim. 62% Muslim, 12% Chinese, 9% Christian
Answers to Prayer: Greater accountability in the political sphere as a strong coalition opposition brings balance to Parliament. Amid significant corruption and abuses of power comes a growing hope for and expectation of genuine justice, political transparency and less discrimination against all minority groups.
The maturation of the Church. Growth is steady if not spectacular, but churches are increasingly engaging in the social and political spheres. They are increasingly savvy about how to operate as a vibrant and outward-focused faith in an Islamic nation.
Challenges for Prayer: Malaysian society faces a troubled and contested future as fault lines appear. Malays, the largest, most dominant and most quickly growing population, are divided among themselves on a number of levels. Pray for changes in the economic, political and religious realms.
Minority groups feel frustrated with discrimination and corruption as well as with changes to civil and religious liberties. Some seek legal and political solutions, but others plan for future outside Malaysia - potentially tragic loss of diversity and economic clout for a land that has long prided itself on both.
Islam is gaining ground in both numbers and socio-political power. Although many, including large numbers of Malays, are opposed to shari'a (Muslims believe shari'a is God's law but they differ as to what exactly it entails), the creeping changes in Malaysian public, religious and legal affairs are cause for concern and for prayer.
Islam itself is a battleground. With over 100 radical Islamist groups, there is never-ending agitation for shari'a and the subjugation of all Malaysia to a much stricter version of Islam. Pray against the imposition of a harsh, aggressive Islam, which would bode ill for moderates, for minorities and for any Christian ministry.
Apostasy laws make conversion from Islam illegal in all but one state, with many states meting out harsh punishment for such offenses. It is nigh impossible for a Muslim (and therefore, by definition, for all Malays) to legally change their religion. Pray that federal constitutional rights might be upheld in courts. Pray for discretion and courage for all Muslims who choose to follow Christ.
Ministry to young people is crucial as the generation gap widens and many churches consist predominantly of older people. The temptations to young people - criminal activity, gambling, substance abuse, sexual immorality - are more pronounced than ever and are part of the reason for the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam.
Of all the things I've read on this historic day, Dr. Mohler has said it the best. Take some time to read this from his website albertmohler.com