Introduction / History
A vast majority of the Punjabi live in India and Pakistan; however, large Punjabi communities can also be found in nearly thirty other countries. While the living conditions of the Punjabi differ greatly from country to country, they have retained much of their traditional culture and lifestyle.
The name "Punjabi" is used to describe both those who speak Punjabi, and those who inhabit the Punjab region in India and Pakistan. Punjabi is an Indo-European language that is divided into six main dialects. It is primarily spoken in the major regions of India and Pakistan.
There are many different social classes and occupational sub-groups among the Punjabi. For this reason, it is difficult to adequately describe their lifestyle. 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. The incorporation of new government policies also had far-reaching effects on the lives of the Punjabi.
What are their lives like?
The caste system is India's strict organization of heriditary classes. The Punjabi are divided into castes called jati. For the Punjabi, a caste is described as a group of families in an area, with common ancestry, who marry among themselves, and have a common traditional occupation based upon a common type of inherited productive property. Castes generally have origin stories that explain how they came into an area, and/or their present occupational position. Caste divisions vary according to region, but they generally range from the upper castes of Brahmins (priests, scholars, landowners, and skilled artisans) to the lowest caste of laborers and servants. Various artisan castes include those who are skilled as carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, barbers, and weavers. The jati are further divided into clans, villages, and families.
The caste system in India is not fully supported by religion, as it is specifically rejected by Islam and Sikhism. Most of the Diaspora Punjabi who are Hindu, are of the higher castes and are usually well educated. For this reason, they have easily assimilated into the various communities in which they now live.
The Punjabi immigrants have taken on a variety of occupations. Many of the Sikhs, who are characterized by their neatly wound turbans, have excelled as mechanics, construction workers, and business professionals. Other Punjabi have found work in retail and trade, particularly through small family businesses.
In traditional Punjabi culture, the men are responsible for overseeing the family possessions such as land, shops, or other business assets. The women are responsible for overseeing the homes. They cook, care for the children, manage the household finances, and take care of any domestic animals.
Marriage is highly desired among all Punjabi, whether Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. Traditionally, residences were patrilocal, which means that young couples lived in the husband's village near his parents. However, in most Diaspora Punjabi communities, this does not occur. Newly-married couples set up their homes wherever they choose. Marriages can still be arranged by parents, but this is rarely done without extensive discussions.
Among the Punjabis, there is no overall system of social control. Instead, each institution (such as business, home, civil administration, religious organization, or political organization) has its own set of laws and disciplinary measures.
It is commonly said among the Punjabi that "land, women, and water are the sources of all conflicts." This simply means that they deem it necessary to control the means by which a person perpetuates his family and property.
What are their beliefs?
The Diaspora Punjabi reflect the three major religions of their homeland: Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. Most of the Diaspora Punjabi speakers are Sikhs, except for those in Myanmar who are mostly atheists.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that was founded in northern India during the sixteenth century. Its teachings have combined the elements of both Hinduism and Islam in an attempt to find one god who transcends all religious distinctions.
What are their needs?
Although there are many Christian resources available in the Punjabi language, very few Punjabi have been reached with the Gospel. Even in predominantly Christian countries, such as Tanzania and Kenya, the Punjabi have a very small Christian population.
There is a great need for church planting teams to begin focusing on the Punjabi. Their search for 'one god who transcends all religions' can provide the open door to share Jesus - the one true God and Savior - with them.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask God to give wisdom to missions agencies focusing on the Punjabi.
Pray that the Lord of the harvest will thrust forth many laborers to work among the Punjabis.
Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film and other evangelistic tools among the Punjabis.
Ask God to encourage the small number of Punjabi Christians.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards the Gospel message.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Punjabi.