Introduction / History The Pattani Malay form an ethnic community in the southern provinces of Thailand. The Pattani, a devout Muslim people, are the descendants of Malaysian Muslims. Due to their dedication to the Islamic faith, the Pattani have a distinct identity in Thailand. A vast majority of the Thai are Buddhist; very few are Muslim. However, since the beginnings of the ancient Malay kingdom in Thailand, Islam has had a major influence on the culture.
The history of the Pattani Malay has been punctuated by revolt and revolution. Over the years, their unique Muslim culture has led to many separatist movements against the Thai government. Because the Pattani province is located a great distance from the center of the Thai government, the Pattani have developed a feeling of uniqueness and independence. However, each time the government tries to centralize control in the state, their independence is threatened. This has resulted in a resentment for the government.
What are their lives like? Most Pattani are self-employed either as farmers or fishermen. The southern provinces of Thailand, though small, are rich in natural resources. This allows the Pattani to grow a variety of native crops, which include rubber, coconut, and tropical fruits. The coast provides fish for the many fishermen. Unfortunately, both farming a fishing are seasonal types of occupations. In addition, the fishing industry has been threatened by the large-scale fishing businesses that have developed recently. The southern portion of Thailand is also rich in minerals, such as tin, gold, wolfram, manganese, and natural gas. Yet, the economy in this region is struggling and poor in comparison to the rest of the country. As a result, the Pattani lead a subsistence type lifestyle.
The Pattani society is organized much like the typical Malay socio-political structure, due to the influence of Islam. There are two main social classes in this culture: the rulers and the commoners. The head of the ruling class is the sultan. His position is passed down through heredity. Underneath the sultan is the ruling class, which contains royal and non-royal members. The royal members are related to the sultan and are able to aspire to the throne, while the non-royal members are religious or state leaders who have achieved their status through merit. The commoners, who are often called "subjects," have three distinct divisions: the subjects, the debt bondsmen, and the slaves. All of the relationships in this society are symbiotic, based on mutual need.
What are their beliefs? Unlike the majority of the population of Thailand, who are Buddhist, the Pattani are Muslim. They closely adhere to Islamic law, or sharia, which is taught in the traditional Islamic schools, called pondoks. According to Islamic doctrine, there is only one god, Allah, whose prophet, Mohammed, came to instruct the followers of Islam. Their book of sacred writings is called the Koran.
Islam is one of the four major world religions. There are five essential "pillars" or duties in Islam: affirming that Allah is the only god and that Mohammed is his prophet, praying five times a day, giving alms generously, fasting during Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim year), and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
What are their needs? The Pattani way of life is based on survival. They are not benefiting from the development of large industries in their provinces. In fact, as these industries continue to expand, the Pattani are being pushed farther and farther out of the markets. Agriculturists are needed to teach the small-scale land owners how to get the most out of their land.
The greatest need of the Pattani is for Jesus Christ. The Jesus film and the New Testament are available in the Melayu Pattani language; however, the Pattani remain marginally Christian. Prayer alone has the power to break down the walls that separate the Pattani Malay from the Truth.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to minister Life to the Pattani Malay.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on this people group.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Pattani who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that God will protect Pattani believers and grant them boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Pattani Malay church for the glory of His name!