Introduction / History
India is a complex mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and social groupings. Because of this diversity, it is extremely difficult to adequately describe any single people group.
India may be divided into four main regions: the Himalayas, the northern river-plains region, the Deccan Plateau, and the Eastern and Western Ghats Mountains. Because of numerous geographical features, climatic conditions are also widely diverse on both a seasonal and regional basis, ranging from tropical to temperate extremes.
In the midst of this complexity can be found the Pao. They are located mainly in the Satna district of the state of Madhya Pradesh, and their language is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Little is known about their specific lifestyle.
What are their lives like?
Most of India's population lives in rural areas and is engaged in some form of agriculture. Many are farmers growing barely enough to survive. Their farms are extremely small and are often very fragmented. The raising of livestock, particularly horned cattle, buffalo, horses, and mules, is a central feature of the agricultural economy. Because of Hindu influence, however, these animals are used almost exclusively as beasts of burden rather than sources of meat.
Indian culture is primarily Hindu-oriented. Many Hindu institutions, including the rigid caste (social class) system, have wide-ranging effects on secular Indian society. The word "caste" basically means breed, race, or kind. Indian society is divided into hierarchical castes which are usually endogamous (marriage only within the caste). Castes may be defined by occupation or by kinship and lineage, although there are some exceptions. Nevertheless, caste is so fundamental to the social organization of India that it prevails in all parts, except some of the tribal populations. Not enough is known about the Pao to accurately place them in the caste system; thus, their particular lifestyle cannot be adequately described. Further research is needed to clearly identify these people so they can be reached with the Gospel.
What are their beliefs?
The Pao are virtually all Hindu and follow the basic Hindu customs and traditions. The term "Hinduism" came into use about 1200A.D., but clearly identifying what Hindus believe is difficult. The religion has no founder, no prophet, and no instructional system. It is a way of living much more than a theology; it is a philosophy more than a religion. Contrary to popular belief in the West, Hinduism is not an ancient, fixed set of beliefs. Rather, it is a body of customs, practices, and beliefs that go through major changes every few hundred years.
The majority, though not all, of Hindus believe in a supreme being. Some respect all life and eat only vegetables, while others will gladly eat meat from sacrifices in the temple. To some, their religion is highly personal; to others, it is impersonal. While most Hindus worship Brahman (the creator), Shiva (the destroyer), Vishnu (the preserver), and the goddess Shaktri, they also worship a pantheon of other minor gods, their incarnations, spouses, or offspring. A belief in reincarnation (continual cycle of death and rebirth) is one of the few unifying features of Hinduism.
What are their needs?
There are only a few known Christians among the Pao. These believers desperately need materials that will encourage and strengthen them in their walk with the Lord. Fervent intercession and pioneer missionary efforts are essential if a strong, indigenous church is to be established among the Pao of India.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into India who will share the Good News with the Pao.
* Pray that God will use the Pao believers to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to call intercessors who will daily stand in the gap for the Pao.