The Southern Punjab of Pakistan
The term "Punjabi" is used to describe both those who speak Punjabi and those who inhabit the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. It is derived from the Persian words panj (five) and ab (river). Punjabi is an Indo-European language having six main dialects. The 13.7 million Southern Punjabi of Pakistan speak the dialect known as Siraiki.
The Punjab region of India and Pakistan is an ancient center of civilization that has been the main route of invasion and migration into India. Its chief historic cities are Lahore, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Patiala.
Modern Punjabi culture was largely shaped by the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947. This event resulted in massive migrations that separated the Muslims from the Hindus and Sikhs. (Sikhism is a combination of Islam and Hinduism.) At the cost of thousands of lives, millions of Hindus and Sikhs migrated eastward into India, and millions of Muslims moved westward into Pakistan.
What Are Their Lives Like?
While more than half (65%) of the Punjab region in Pakistan is rural, the Lahore district is 84% urban. Settlements in that region consist of rapidly growing towns that serve as educational and administrative centers. The cities also offer a full range of occupations; whereas, in the rural areas, most of the people are farmers, laborers, and specialized craftsmen.
The Punjab has long been one of the world's most important agricultural regions. In the Pakistan Punjab, the principal crops are cotton and wheat, which grow easily in the dry climate. Cotton is their primary cash crop, grown mainly for export.
Villages in the Punjab region have houses that are built closely together. The outer walls are joined together, protecting them from outsiders. Entrance into the village is through a stone gateway, or durwaza, which arches over the main road. It serves as an important meeting place for villagers, as well as a favorite stopping place for visiting merchants and traders.
The household, or ghar, is the center of social life for the Punjabi, whether they are rich or poor. The ghar is made up of those who contribute to and eat from a single hearth. All members of the ghar pool their earnings and make joint decisions regarding their savings, investments, and any major transactions. Families are formed and developed within the ghar.
Marriage is considered universal and necessary among all Punjabi. Residences are generally patrilocal, which means that young couples live in the husband's village near his parents. Marriages can still be arranged by parents, but this is rarely done without extensive discussions. Wedding ceremonies vary according to caste and religion; however, the bride's parents usually pay for the wedding. Even though in 1961 the Indian government forbid the giving of a dowry (the property that a wife or a wife's family give to her husband upon marriage) this tradition still continues in Punjabi families.
Among the Punjabi, there is no overall system of social control. Instead, each social institution (such as homes, businesses, civil administration, religious organizations, and political organizations) has its own set of laws and disciplinary measures.
The staple diet of the Punjabi consists of bread and preserved or fresh vegetables.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Southern Punjabi are primarily Hanafite Muslims; however, about one out of every twelve Punjabi are Shi'ite Muslims.
The Southern Punjabi are not orthodox Muslims, but rather practice what is known as "folk Islam." Their beliefs are interwoven with a rich variety of local superstitions. They rely heavily on astrology, charms or amulets, and potions. They also believe that men have the power to curse others by giving them the "evil eye."
What Are Their Needs?
There are a number of Christian resources available to the Southern Punjabi. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of their population has responded. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the Good News.
- Pray against the spirit of Islam that has kept the Punjabi bound for many generations.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams that will break up the ground through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are currently targeting the Punjabi.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the people of the Punjab region.
- Ask God to give the Punjabi believers boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the people toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will begin revealing Himself to these precious Muslims through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Southern Punjabi.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Southern Punjabi
- Country: Pakistan
- Their language: Siraiki (Riasiti)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 3.1%
- Church members: 426,829
- Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 7,586,500 (55%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 6,182,200 (45%)
- Country: Pakistan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 37
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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