The Balmiki of Pakistan
Pakistan is a land characterized by great geographic, climatic, linguistic, religious, and ethnic diversity. With a population of nearly 140.5 million, it is home to more than 90 distinct ethnic groups, with the major ones being the Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, and Urdu. This varied ethnological background is largely a result of repeated invasions during Pakistan's long history. The people come from such ethnic backgrounds as the Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Greek, Scythian, Hun, Arab, Mongol, Persian, and Afghan.
Scattered throughout Pakistan and often intermingled with the larger ethnic groups are many smaller groups, one of which is the 24,700 Balmiki. It is believed that they are related to the Sindhi, and it is assumed that they are probably located in the southern part of the nation in Sindh Province. Their language (also called Balmiki) is a part of the Indo-Aryan language family. Very little specific detail is known concerning their lifestyle and culture.
What are their lives like?
The division of the subcontinent of India in 1947 caused tremendous dislocation of populations. Some 3.5 million Hindus and Sikhs (those who practice a mixture of Hinduism and Islam) moved from Pakistan into India, and about 5 million Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan. This shift caused an initial bitterness between the two countries, further intensified by each country's acquisition of a portion of the princely states. Although the Balmiki are Hindus, they chose to stay in Pakistan.
About 26% of Pakistan's land is suitable for farming, with most of that land being irrigated. Agriculture and related activities engage about half of the work force, and more than 65% of the people live in rural areas. Agricultural yield has been low because of the large number of sharecroppers who have little incentive to increase production. In an attempt to deal with the problem, reform and progressive taxes have been introduced. In the 1960's and 1970's, wheat production dramatically increased, due to the use of improved strains. These increases enabled Pakistan to become agriculturally self-sufficient, though there are occasional shortages.
Wheat is the staple crop, and sugarcane is widely grown. Cotton and rice are the major export crops. The number of livestock is high, but the production of meat and milk remains low because of inadequate feed and poor management. Goats and sheep are the most numerous animals, followed by cattle, buffalo, and camels.
Family organization is patriarchal (dominated by the males), and most people live in large extended families. A woman's place in society is low, and she is restricted to domestic chores and to fulfilling the role of a dutiful wife and mother. Social structure revolves around kinship rather than caste. Beradari (tracing ancestry through the males) is the most important social institution. Men prefer to marry the daughters of their fathers' brothers; thus, among many groups, marriages are invariably within the beradari. The elders of a lineage constitute a council that settles disputes and represents the lineage to the outside world.
What are their beliefs?
The dominant religion of Pakistan is Islam, which is embraced by about 97% of the people. Hinduism and Christianity form the leading minority religions. The Balmiki are included in the minority groups, being 95% Hindu. The Pakistani constitution defines the country as an Islamic nation but guarantees freedom of religion. In reality, however, there is much persecution of Christians.
What are their needs?
Only about 35% of adult Pakistanis are literate. The constitution provides for five years of free primary education, but less than half of all children actually receive it. In addition, birth and death rates are high. The government has unsuccessfully attempted to lower fertility levels by encouraging female employment and family planning.
Although the Balmiki have few Christian resources in their own language, there are three missions agencies currently targeting them. A great need for intercession and missions efforts still remains if the Balmiki are to come to Christ.
- Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of Pakistan's leaders towards the preaching of the Gospel.
- Pray that Christian teachers will respond to the challenge of sharing their skills and their faith with the Balmiki.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Balmiki.
- Pray for the spiritual ears of the Balmiki to be opened as they listen to Christian broadcasts in their language.
- Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Balmiki believers as they share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Balmiki bound.
- Ask God to call faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Balmiki.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Balmiki church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Balmiki
- Country: Pakistan
- Their language: Balmiki (Hindustani)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1%
- Church members: 247
- 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: 3
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 7,700 (31%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 17,000 (68%)
- Country: Pakistan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 37
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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