Saleem is packing his bags for a trip to Saudi Arabia. Like many families in Kerala, a state in Southwest India, Saleem’s parents are pleased to have found a job for their son in the Middle East. Although it cost them two years salary, this arrangement is a double blessing for the family. Saleem will be able to send home much money and, when he returns, he will have become more orthodox in his faith.
Early History of the Mappila Peoples, Kerala, India
Kerala is considered to be the entry point of Christianity in the Indian Subcontinent. Tradition holds that the Apostle Thomas carried the Gospel here during the first century. The area has numerous Christian denominations including the Syriac Jacobite Church, Orthodox, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations. Those who are at least nominally Christian number approximately 20% of the population. Some Christians in the region are increasingly having the desire to reach out to Hindu and Muslim groups yet there are significant social barriers (often linked to the Indian “caste” mentality).
Muslims began arriving as sailors on trading ships in the 7th century. They married the daughters of local fishermen and settled down, adopting the language (Malayalam) and culture of Kerala, but keeping a strict form of Islam. Today, approximately 25 percent (8.5 million) of the people of Kerala are Muslim.
The main Muslim group in Kerala is the Mappila, who make up one fifth of the state’s population. They have settled in many of the cities and towns throughout South Asia where they work as merchants, traders and shopkeepers. The Mappila are famous for being everywhere. One story says as soon as Neil Armstrong landed on the moon he was greeted by a man from Kerala who offered him a cup of chai (Indian tea)!
Recently, over a hundred gospel workers gathered to learn about how they could share their faith with their Muslim neighbors, friends and co-workers. Pray that these people will go beyond the training and start sharing. Ask that the Christians of Kerala will witness to the Mappilas and that a church-planting movement will begin as a result.
Prayer for the Mappila in India:
* Ask the Lord to call people from around the world to come and share Christ with the Mappilas.
* The Jesus film is available in the Malayalam language. Pray that the Mappilas view this film and respond with faith in Christ.
* Pray that God will speak to this Muslim people group through Bible teaching, stories as well as dreams and visions which will turn their hearts toward Him. First Century Christians proclaimed the Gospel in simple terms which were meaningful to their neighbours. Significant cross cultural and social barriers exist in Kerala. May God equip his people to cross these barriers effectively.
* Pray that God will continue to multiply the numbers of people willing to be trained and sent out to work among Muslims in India.