The Deli Malay Muslims of Indonesia

indonesian-sumatra-farmerThe Deli Malay are a group of 4 million people living on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. They live primarily along the north-west coastline, but also in towns and cities further inland. The Deli are just one of the Malay people groups found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and south Thailand.

What are the Deli Malay beliefs?

Islam came to the Malay during the 15th century, and has proved to be central to their identity: “to be Malay is to be Muslim”. For many, however, their faith is not an intellectual one. Customs and habits are handed down through the generations, and animist beliefs are also incorporated into their culture. There are currently around 50 Christians among the Deli – most of these conversions have been by marriage, and the converts have since had to move outside the Deli community.

How do the Deli Malay live?

The Deli are known for being fishermen, working the Malacca Straits between Sumatra and Malaysia. As a result of large-scale commercial fishing, there is less and less room for individual or family fishing activities. This has contributed to the Deli becoming the poorest of the poor. They have large families, often with six or seven children: the whole family shares one room in a house made of wooden planks, usually by the sea. Most have no electricity, and few have access to clean drinking water. The river and shore is used for drinking, bathing and washing clothes. The Deli have a reputation for being lazy, and most children will have left school by 10-12 years of age. Deli cultural values come from their Islamic beliefs, which focus on living in peace and harmony with those around them.

What do the Deli Malay need?

Most importantly, the Deli need to know the truth of faith in Isa al Masih (Jesus Christ). They need people to come alongside them and chat to them in a context which is relevant to their understanding and worldview. If the Deli are to come to faith in Isa al Masih, it is vital that there are well-trained national workers to live alongside them and share the gospel with them in an appropriate way.

They also need opportunities to earn a fair wage doing jobs which are tailored to their level of education, so that they can provide a better standard of living for themselves and their family. Their culture needs to learn to value education, so that children will stay in school longer and be able to compete for better jobs. They also need better access to basics such as clean water and electricity.

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Flag of Indonesia

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Map of Indonesia

Prayer for Indonesia:

* Plead for God’s mercy and intervention on behalf of the Deli.

* Pray that the few Delis who have received the Spirit of the Messiah would be faithful in witnessing and sharing in a way appropriate to a Deli context.

* Pray that God will thrust more workers, both local and foreign, into the Deli harvest field.

* Pray that God will establish many more small business platforms for witness in Deli areas.

* Pray that God will raise up strong local communities of believers among the Deli in the near future.


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