The wife of a Malaysian pastor who was abducted in 2017 was among 12 women honored Wednesday with the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award.
Susanna Liew, the wife of pastor Raymond Koh, was honored by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and first lady Melania Trump for fighting on behalf of religious minorities who’ve disappeared under similar circumstances as her husband and those facing persecution for their religious beliefs in Malaysia.
The International Women of Courage Award, which has been given out by the secretary of state for 14 years, recognizes women who demonstrate “exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.”
Over the years, 146 women have been honored from 77 countries.
Koh, who along with Liew founded a nonprofit to serve the poor and underprivileged, was abducted near their home in West Malaysia on Feb. 13, 2017, when three black SUVs surrounded him in his car.
The abduction was captured on surveillance cameras (watch here) but neither Koh nor his car have ever been found.
Liew pressed for answers surrounding the disappearance of her husband and others during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s 2018-2019 inquiry into enforced disappearances. She is still calling on the government to investigate the cases and hold those responsible accountable.
“Despite police harassment and death threats, she continues to advocate for her husband and others, not because of her faith or theirs, but because of their rights as Malaysians,” a State Department press release explains.
A task force was formed after Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission found last year that Malaysia’s Special Branch intelligence service was likely behind the disappearances of Koh and Muslim social activist Amri Che.
However, Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs said in January that the task force needed more time to prepare its report.
Last month, Liew said that she is going to sue current and former police officials because she did not receive any resolutions regarding her husband’s investigation.
Liew has also sought justice on behalf of pastor Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian wife, Ruth Sitepu, who disappeared in 2016 after leaving their home in Kuala Lampur.
Johnnie Moore, an evangelical religious freedom advocate and commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, was happy to see the State Department honor Liew.
“Pleased to see @StateDept shine its bright light today on the case of abducted Malaysian Pastor Raymond Koh, as they celebrated his wife’s relentless advocacy for her husband & those like him,” Moore tweeted. “Deploying might & money the US is the global bulwark for human rights.”
The 12 recipients of the International Women of Courage award will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program in which they will visit American cities. The program offers short-term visits enabling participants to build “lasting relationships with their American counterparts.”
Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List ranks Malaysia as the 40th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. In Malaysia, Christians have suffered from many forms of Islamic repression.
According to Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, Catholics and Methodists are monitored by authorities in Malaysia but nontraditional Protestant groups are more often targeted because they are usually more active in evangelizing. Open Doors reports that it is illegal to share the Gospel with Malaysian Muslims.