Introduction / History The peoples of Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines have had a reputation as seafarers ever since about 1500 B.C. Because a diversity of peoples from numerous origins inhabit this region, a trade language developed called Pasar ("market") Malay. Today, the language is known as Bazaar Malay. Since the late medieval times, Bazaar Malay has become the common trading language for most of the East Indies. Its dominance arose through the port of Malacca.
Today, Bazaar Malay (or Sabah Malay) speakers live mainly in the urban areas. They are usually children of parents who speak different native languages. Although Bazaar Malay is closely related to the local Malay language, it is a simplified and popular form, sounding cheerful and clear. It contains native words and terms borrowed from traders who settled along the coasts. It also owes much to Javanese and other sources. The language is not yet fully developed, so one who speaks only Bazaar Malay has difficulty understanding standard Malay.
What are their lives like? Long ago, merchants from many countries traveled to the East Indies to obtain various commodities, primarily spices. Successive waves of Western merchants fought their way eastward in search of the source of these riches. As they traveled, the Indians-who had been the most important merchants in the region-gradually became displaced.
Arabs were the first group of merchants to come to the East Indies in search of goods and spices. In the 1400s, these Arab merchants brought the Islamic religion to the people of Malacca, Malaysia and other parts of the area. The Arabs were followed by the Portuguese in 1511, the Dutch in 1641, and the British in the late 1700s.
Presently, the Bazaar Malay are mainly shopkeepers and smalltime traders. They generally have makeshift stalls that stock anything from folk medicine and fresh fruits to household utensils and fashionable clothes. The Bazaar Malay often work at the night bazaars for those who are bargain hunters.
The Bazaar Malay who are settled in Sabah, Malaysia are farmers as well as smalltime merchants. They harvest wet and dry rice, rubber, fruits, and vegetables. The rubber plantations, which are a legacy of the British colonial period, are mostly located in Sabah and on the western coast of the Malay Peninsula. The Malay and Indonesian immigrant peasant farmers easily adapted to the lifestyle of cultivating the rubber tree plantations.
Many of the Bazaar Malay are also excellent fishermen. Those who live in the Philippines live along the southern coastal regions, where they are often referred to as "Coastal Malay."
Although the Bazaar Malay language is adequate for business and everyday life, it is not taught in schools. It is the common language among the Malay and other ethnic groups who are not in constant contact.
What are their beliefs? Although Malacca, Malaysia was not as quickly proselytized by Muslims as other places in the Malay region, Islam eventually found its place in the hearts of the Bazaar Malay. Like other Malays worldwide, the Bazaar Malay recognize a Malaysian law that defines a Malay as "a person belonging to any Malayan race who habitually speaks Malay (or any Malayan language) and professes the Muslim religion." Thus, many non-Malay have become Malay through conversion to Islam and residence in a Malayan community.
Even though the Malay identify strongly with Islam, they continue to practice many aspects of their pre-Islamic religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and ethnic religions. For example, they commemorate many important events in life such as birth, marriage, and death with non-Islamic rituals. It is common for Malay who live in rural areas to believe in ghosts, goblins, and spirits. Also, if medicine is unavailable, a shaman (priest or priestess who communicates with the spirits) will often be brought in to treat an illness.
The Bazaar Malay observe the traditional Islamic holidays. Muslim rites are also performed at the beginning and ending of every ceremony-even those that are Hindu-Buddhist in content-especially weddings.
What are their needs? In Malaysia, constitutional guarantees of religious freedom are under attack. It is illegal to evangelize Malaysian Muslims; however, Muslims may share their faith with whomever they like. The Bazaar Malay who live in Singapore and the Philippines have freedom of religion. Yet, they too have very few Christians. Many of them have never yet heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Believers in these countries must seize the opportunity to share Christ with their Muslim neighbors. Prayer is the first step toward seeing the Bazaar Low Malay Creole come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Points * Pray that missions agencies and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Bazaar Malay.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among each of the Bazaar Malay groups.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through intercession.
* Pray for greater freedom to proclaim the Gospel among the Bazaar Malay peoples.
* Ask the Lord to save key Bazaar Malay leaders who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth many Bazaar Malay churches for the glory of His name!