Introduction / History
The Urdu speaking Indians make up less than five percent of Bahrain's population, but are the third largest people group in that nation. Bahrain is made up of a cluster of islands off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia in the heart of the Persian Gulf. The Urdu are Muslims, as are the Arabs and Persians of the islands.
The Urdu belong to the Indo-Aryan people who originated near Delhi, India. Aryan tribes entered India about 1500 BC mixing with mongoloids, Greeks, and Huns. This caused the Indian features to become gradually more Caucasian and their language more diverse. Muslim influence promoted the linguistic change out of which the Urdu language eventually developed.
Urdu speaking Indians and Pakistanis migrated to Bahrain because of the common identity of Islam. In India most of the people are Hindu and follow a rigid caste system. In Bahrain they enjoy a stronger education system and better living conditions.
What are their lives like?
Most people in Bahrain live in apartments or houses in towns on the northern part of the largest island, also called Bahrain. Since wood is scarce they build homes of cement and lime brick. These houses are usually tall and are built with wind towers to catch the breeze. Villagers, on the other hand, generally live in thatched huts.
The islands receive only three inches of rainfall a year, but fresh underground springs along the northern coast of Bahrain provide ample water to drink and to irrigate crops.
Bahrain is more cosmopolitan than other middle eastern countries and its people enjoy a relatively high standard of living. The government provides free education, medical care and a superior electrical system. Most households have air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, radios and telephones. Families usually eat one main meal a day that includes vegetables, lamb, fish, and rice.
Urdu Indians from the hotter regions wear light, loose clothing. Many of the men wear turbans. However, younger Bahrainis wear clothes that reflect Western influence.
Although the Muslims have a respect for marriage and family, polygamy is acceptable. Parents still arrange marriages, but do not force them on young people.
What are their beliefs?
The Urdu are Sunni Muslims, the religion of their heritage and their culture. The ruling Arab family of Bahrain and many townspeople are Sunnite Muslims while the northern villagers are Shiites. Mainland Muslims criticize the Bahrainis for not being strict enough about traditional religious values. For example, the women in Bahrain are becoming more publicly active and fewer of them wear traditional veils.
What are their needs?
Bahrain, unlike other Arab nations, is growing more open to Western influence. Now more than ever the Urdu are listening to fresh ideas and considering new perspectives on life. Nevertheless, their culture is so intertwined with the Islamic religion that it is difficult for them to accept another world view.
Bahrain has capitalized on the petroleum industry since 1932, but oil reserves will dry up by 2010. Fishing has declined due to pollution in the Gulf. Bahrain is diversifying, building industry and becoming a banking center for the Middle East. Opportunities for foreign businesses in Bahrain mean opportunities for Christian business people to share the Gospel.
Television and radio programs broadcast mostly in Arabic, although some English programs come out of Saudi Arabia. English Bibles, Christian literature and programs in English may be used as long as they show sensitivity to the Urdu culture. Several ministry groups are producing materials to reach Muslims in both English and Urdu.
Bahrain is an Independent Arab sheikdom (territorially governed by leaders called sheiks). Its constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion, but parts of the constitution have been overruled by the Sheiks.
Bahraini Muslims consider the moral values of Western Christians to be pagan and are leery of opening up to them
* Pray for open hearts among all Urdu, especially those in Bahrain.
* Pray for the Christians broadcasting in Urdu and the expansion of their ministry.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will multiply the effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Urdu. Pray for a great exposure of the Urdu in Bahrain to this film.
* Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into the fields where the Urdu are located.
* Pray that the Christians who live near and among the Urdu will be bold in sharing their faith in Jesus.
* Pray that God will open doors for Christian business people to share the Gospel with the Urdu.
* Ask the Lord to help you learn more about the Urdu and what you can do to reach out to them.