|World Watch List Rank||World Watch List Score|
|Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah||434,000 (54,800 Christians)|
|Source of Persecution||Persecution Level|
|Islamic extremism||Very High Persecution|
The first stage of Sharia (Islamic law) is in effect in Brunei, making it mandatory for all Muslims (including Christian converts) to attend Islamic prayers. A fatwa bans the building or renovating of buildings used for non-Muslim worship, and importing Bibles, evangelising and celebrating Christmas is prohibited. Once implemented, the last two phases of Sharia would be even more restrictive. Christian converts also face pressure from their communities to return to Islam.
Brunei, a country of 434,000 people in south east Asia, is an absolute monarchy and has been ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah - who recently declared himself as Prime Minister and President - for almost 49 years. For the last few years, Islamic law has been fully operative for all Muslims in the country. On 1 May 2014, this was extended to penal law and is being introduced in three phases; though the first of these has been implemented, the second and third phases are still pending due to international pressure (the second is due to begin in June 2017).
Phase 1: Fines for indecent behaviour or failure to attend Friday prayers. Christians testifying to their faith can be fined, imprisoned or sentenced to both.
Phase 2: Corporal punishment and mutilations for theft and other crimes - including flogging for adultery and amputation of limbs for theft.
Phase 3: Capital punishment, i.e. executions for crimes like adultery and apostasy (leaving Islam), and stoning to death as a punishment for rape.
It is now a criminal act for non-Muslims to share their faith with Muslims and atheists. Offenders are at risk of being fined or sent to jail for five years. By contrast, the government follows a plan of Islamisation amongst its tribal peoples. Teaching religions other than Islam to a child of Muslims or atheists is also now illegal. This will affect the few, highly influential, Christian schools that normally start their days with reading the Word of God.Finally, following the lead of neighbouring Malaysia, Sharia claims that 19 words belong solely to Islam. Christians are banned from using words like Allah (God) and Firman Allah (God's Word). These terms are used in the Malay language Bible, commonly used by Bruneians.
The development has increased fear and anxiety amongst the minority Christian believers. Church leaders are already heavily monitored by the government, but with the possibility of being charged under full Islamic law, the pressure will significantly increase.
Open Doors serves persecuted believers in South East Asia through: