Prayer Profile
The Punjabi of Kenya

[IMAGE] Although most Punjabi live in India and Pakistan, emigrating Punjabi have established substantial communities in about twenty-six other countries. While living conditions differ greatly from country to country, the Punjabi (who may be Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh) retain much of their traditional culture and lifestyle.

The term Punjabi describes both an inhabitant of the Punjab region (in India and Pakistan) and a speaker of the area's major language, Punjabi. The name comes from the Persian panj (five) and ab (river). It is an Indo-European language, divided into six main-dialects, and is primarily used in the major Punjabi regions of India and Pakistan.

Modern Punjabi culture has been profoundly shaped by the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947. The resulting massive migrations basically separated Muslims from Hindus and Sikhs, and saw the beginning of sharply different governmental policies that impacted all areas of life.

What Are Their Lives Like?
Wherever they have gone, the resourceful Punjabi have made a place for themselves within the local communities. In Kenya, as in most countries where they have settled, the Punjabi are employed in many different occupations. The Sikhs, who represent seventy percent of the Kenyan Punjabi, have entered various professions. They excel as mechanics and work in construction. Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims all work in small family businesses.

Men usually control the family property or means by which the family earns its living. If Punjabi live in extended families (two or more generations living together), the wife or mother of the oldest male heads up the women's side of the home. She controls the household, including the activities of all the children and (in some cases), the other wives.

About twenty-seven percent of the Punjabi in Kenya are Hindus who rigorously follow the social and economic caste system common in the Punjab region of India. Their social and economic status is based first on caste, then clan, village, division, and family. Although higher and lower castes may vary from area to area, upper castes usually include Brahmans (Hindu priests), landowners, and skilled artisans. Artisan castes include carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, barbers, and sometimes weavers.

Marriage is an important institution among all Punjabi religious groups. Traditionally, the bride lives with her husband in his village and house. However, in Kenya, as in most communities outside India and Pakistan, newly married couples set up their own homes. Parents sometimes still may arrange marriages, but this is rarely done without consulting those involved.

Marriage ceremonies differ by caste and religion. Generally, they are symbolic of the ideal that a marriage is a free gift from the bride's family to the groom, with nothing taken back in exchange. The bride's family usually pays all the wedding expenses. Often her family provides substantial gifts (a dowry) for her to take to her new home.

Instead of one central authority, each segment of the community has its own set of sanctions and discipline: commerce, household management, politics, civil administration, kinship, law and customary law, and religion.

What Are Their Beliefs?
The Diaspora Punjabi reflect the religions of their homeland: Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. Approximately seventy percent of the Kenyan Punjabi are Sikhs. Most of the remainder are Hindus and a very small number are Muslims.

What Are Their Needs?
Even though Kenya is a predominately Christian nation, less than one percent of the Punjabi are Christian. Only one missions agency currently works among the Kenyan Punjabi. A number of resources are available to help evangelize the Punjabi, so it is important that church planting teams begin to specifically target these people.

Prayer Points

  • Pray against the spirit of Islam and other pagan beliefs that have kept the Punjabi bound for many generations.
  • Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that the Lord will raise up long term workers to join the few who have already responded.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Punjabi.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to the Punjabi.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Kenyan Punjabi Christians.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Kenyan Punjabi towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kenyan Punjabi by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
the Punjabi Cluster;
the Eastern Punjabi of India; the Mirpur Punjapi of India; the Southern Punjabi of Pakistan; the Western Punjabi of Afghanistan; and the Punjabi of Pakistan.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Punjabi
  • Country: Kenya
  • Their language: Punjabi
  • Population: (1990) 30,800
    (1995) 36,900
    (2000) 42,500
  • Largest religion: Sikh 70%
    Hindu 27%
    Muslim 1.8%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 55
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bible
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 15,200 (42%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,900 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 13,300 (36%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 21,700 (58%)
  • Country: Kenya
  • Population: (1990) 23,612,700
    (1995) 28,261,200
    (2000) 32,577,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Kikuyu 19.6%
    Luo 13.7%
    Kamba 11.1%
    Central Luhya 7.7%
    Kisii 6.2%
  • Major religions: Christian 84.2%
    Ethnic religionist 6.7%
    Muslim 7%
  • Number of denominations: 116

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.

[Home] [Calendar] [Country List]