Prayer Profile
Malay Creole of Sri Lanka

[IMAGE] Sri Lanka is a beautiful island country in the Indian Ocean, lying just off the southeast coast of India. Its 18 million inhabitants are divided into numerous ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Malay Creoles make up one of the many minority groups in Sri Lanka. They represent a small 0.3% of its population.

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?
Though the Malay Creoles live spread across the island of Sri Lanka, most of them are concentrated in major cities such as Colombo (Sri Lanka's capitol), Kandy, and Badulla.

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?
While most of Sri Lanka's population is either Buddhist or Hindu, Muslims account for only about 8%. Practically all of the Malay Creoles (99.9%) are professing Shafiite Muslims. They do not adhere to the strictest form of Islam, however, but have simply incorporated Islamic practices into their own beliefs in spirits and ghosts.

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?
The nation of Sri Lanka is plagued by ethnic disharmony, especially between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. This is the largest problem facing the people today. The economic opportunities for Sri Lanka are few, and the intense competition for these openings has caused much dissatisfaction and discrimination between the two ethnic groups. The nation has been, and is being, torn apart by a brutal civil war. Thousands have been killed in the violence of the past decade.

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.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the spirits of Islam and spiritism will be broken over the Malay Creoles, and that the eyes of their understanding will be enlightened to the Truth.
  • Pray for God to raise up missionaries who are willing to reach out to the Malay Creoles. Pray for God's favor to surround them as a shield.
  • Pray that the devastating effects of war in Sri Lanka will cause them to call on God for help.
  • Pray that God will send qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Java Jati.
  • Pray against the spirits of war and violence over the island of Sri Lanka. Pray that the islanders will find true peace in God's Word as it goes forth.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Christians living in Sri Lanka. Pray that their lives will be a strong witness for the Gospel.
  • Pray for the establishment of strong local churches among the Malay Creoles by the year 2000.

See also the following Groups:
The Diaspora Malay, and The Malay of Malaysia.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Malay Creole
  • Country: Sri Lanka
  • Their language: Malay Creole
  • Population: (1990) 52,700
    (1995) 56,200
    (2000) 59,700
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 11
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 6
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 14,600 (26%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,700 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 12,900 (23%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 41,600 (74%)
  • Country: Sri Lanka
  • Population: (1990) 17,225,300
    (1995) 18,353,500
    (2000) 19,503,700
  • Major peoples in size order: Sinhalese 74.3%
    Ceylon Tamil 11.2%
    Ceylon Moor 6.5%
    Indian Tamil 5.6%
    Punjabi 0.5%
  • Major religions: Buddhists 67.4%
    Hindus 14.2%
    Muslims 7.8%
  • Number of denominations: 32

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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