Introduction / History
Although most Punjabi live in India and Pakistan, emigrating Punjabi have established substantial communities in about twenty-six other countries. While living conditions differ greatly from country to country, the Punjabi (who may be Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh) retain much of their traditional culture and lifestyle.
The term Punjabi describes both an inhabitant of the Punjab region (in India and Pakistan) and a speaker of the area's major language, Punjabi. The name comes from the Persian panj (five) and ab (river). It is an Indo-European language, divided into six main-dialects, and is primarily used in the major Punjabi regions of India and Pakistan.
Modern Punjabi culture has been profoundly shaped by the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947. The resulting massive migrations basically separated Muslims from Hindus and Sikhs, and saw the beginning of sharply different governmental policies that impacted all areas of life.
What are their lives like?
Wherever they have gone, the resourceful Punjabi have made a place for themselves within the local communities. In Kenya, as in most countries where they have settled, the Punjabi are employed in many different occupations. The Sikhs, who represent seventy percent of the Kenyan Punjabi, have entered various professions. They excel as mechanics and work in construction. Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims all work in small family businesses.
Men usually control the family property or means by which the family earns its living. If Punjabi live in extended families (two or more generations living together), the wife or mother of the oldest male heads up the women's side of the home. She controls the household, including the activities of all the children and (in some cases), the other wives.
A substantial number of the Punjabi in Kenya are Hindus who rigorously follow the social and economic caste system common in the Punjab region of India. Their social and economic status is based first on caste, then clan, village, division, and family. Although higher and lower castes may vary from area to area, upper castes usually include Brahmans (Hindu priests), landowners, and skilled artisans. Artisan castes include carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, barbers, and sometimes weavers.
Marriage is an important institution among all Punjabi religious groups. Traditionally, the bride lives with her husband in his village and house. However, in Kenya, as in most communities outside India and Pakistan, newly married couples set up their own homes. Parents sometimes still may arrange marriages, but this is rarely done without consulting those involved.
Marriage ceremonies differ by caste and religion. Generally, they are symbolic of the ideal that a marriage is a free gift from the bride's family to the groom, with nothing taken back in exchange. The bride's family usually pays all the wedding expenses. Often her family provides substantial gifts (a dowry) for her to take to her new home.
Instead of one central authority, each segment of the community has its own set of sanctions and discipline: commerce, household management, politics, civil administration, kinship, law and customary law, and religion.
What are their beliefs?
The Diaspora Punjabi reflect the religions of their homeland: Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. The majority of the Kenyan Punjabi are Sikhs. Most of the remainder are Hindus and a very small number are Muslims.
What are their needs?
Even though Kenya is a predominately Christian nation, very few of the Punjabi are Christian.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that the Lord will raise up long term workers to join the few who have already responded.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Kenyan Punjabi Christians.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Kenyan Punjabi towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kenyan Punjabi.