Malay Creole of Sri Lanka
In the early 1700's, the Dutch brought the Malays from the Indonesian island of Java, a Dutch colony, to Sri Lanka. While the Dutch proceeded to colonize the majority of the islands of Southern Asia, the Malays served as a defense for the island of Sri Lanka. As time passed, they intermarried with other inhabitants of the island. Eventually, their distinctive mongoloid features were lost, and their language became mixture of Tamil and Malay.
The official languages of Sri Lanka are presently Tamil and Sinhalese, but most Malays speak Malay Creole (or Java Jati) at home. Moorish Tamil is spoken in the mosques, while English is the language used most often in educational settings.
What are their lives like?
Agriculture is Sri Lanka's chief economic activity. The country's three main exports are tea, coconuts, and rubber. Major industrial products include textiles, chemicals, and paper. The land is fertile, producing rice and other grains, oilseeds, vegetables, and many well-known spices.
Many of the islanders earn such low wages that their diets are extremely poor. Rice, the chief food in Sri Lanka, is often served with stew-like dishes of spicy vegetables, meat, fish, or eggs. Their main source of protein is fish, and tea is their favorite drink.
Although polygamy (the practice of having multiple wives) is permitted by both the Islamic religion and the Sri Lankan government, most Malay men only have one wife. Many people, especially those in rural areas, live in extended families, meaning that two or more generations of the same family live together. Houses that have thatched roofs are common among the poorer rural people, but wealthier Sri Lankans usually have more substantial housing.
Most rural Sri Lankan men wear a sarong (a garment wrapped around the waist to form a long skirt) and a shirt, while many urban men wear Western-style clothing. Women usually wear a redde (a skirt similar to a sarong) with a blouse, or a sari (a straight piece of cloth draped around the body as a long dress).
Ninety percent of the people living in Sri Lanka are literate, and school attendance is compulsory until the age of twelve. Mass communication is very difficult there since only 4% of the people have televisions, only 13% have radios, and only 1% have telephones. Public transportation is adequate, and less than 1% of the population owns a car.
What are their beliefs?
Though there may be some degree of openness to the Gospel among Sri Lankans, persecution of Muslims by former "Christian" European rulers has left many bitter memories.
What are their needs?
Thirty-two denominations are currently doing missions work in Sri Lanka. However, long standing ethnic tensions, coupled with their deep-rooted beliefs in Islam and spiritism, have caused a tremendous resistance to the Gospel. One other major hindrance to reaching them is that the Bible has not yet been translated into the Malay Creole language.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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