Introduction / History Sri Lanka has been called one of the most beautiful places in the world. Unfortunately, a 26-year civil war starting in 1983 took place in the island country. Up to 100,000 died and there was millions of dollars in property damage. The majority Buddhist Sinhalese declared victory over the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Since that time the Sri Lankan economy has begun to rebound, and tourists have returned to the island. The Marakkalage are a seafaring Muslim Tamil community in Sri Lanka. They are descendants of Arab traders and the local population. The Marakkalage were ship captains and sailors who waged naval warfare against the European colonial powers, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. With the money they gained from trade the Marakkalage bought land for tea, coconut, tobacco and spice plantations. They are considered upper class in the Sri Lankan caste system. Some of the leaders of the Tamil Tigers in the Sri Lankan civil war were from the Marakkalage people. The Kaiyars are a similar seafaring people in Sri Lanka who are Hindus, not Muslims. A revised version of the complete Tamil Bible was made available in 2016.
What are their lives like? The Marakkalage are slowly recovering from the war. Much of their property was destroyed and many from this people group lost their lives. The Marakkalage are still involved in fishing and transporting goods by sea. They trade pearls, fish, shells, tobacco, and other goods on an international scale. They own tracts of land that is worked by others. They encourage their children to obtain university degrees and learn English. The Marakkalage marry within their group. Marriage to one wife is the norm although a wealthy man may marry up to four wives. Sons inherit property upon the death of their father. The Marakkalage consider it part of their identity to be Muslim.
What are their beliefs? The Marakkalage people are Sunni, the largest branch of Islam. They try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam that they will attain heaven when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Sunnis pray five times a day facing Mecca. They fast the month of Ramadan. They attend mosque services on Friday. If a Muslim has the means, he or she will make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her lifetime. Muslims are also prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, using deceit, slandering, and making idols. The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah.
What are their needs? The Marakkalage need to recover their wounds from the Sri Lankan war. They need to understand that Isa or Jesus is more than a human prophet. He alone can forgive their sins and give them eternal life.
Prayer Points *Ask the Lord to send workers to the Marakkalage to tell them about Jesus and His love for them. *Pray the Lord raises up a Disciple Making Movement among the Marakkalage of Sri Lanka in this decade. *Pray that Tamil Christians would reach out and build redemptive relationships with this people. *Pray that Marakkalge would begin to read and understand the Tamil Bible and be open to watching the JESUS Film.