Cham, Western in Thailand

Cham, Western
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People Name: Cham, Western
Country: Thailand
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 4,600
World Population: 302,600
Primary Language: Cham, Western
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.05 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Cham
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The precise origin of the Cham is unknown, but they are the survivors of the Champa Kingdom, which flourished from A.D. 2 until A.D. 1471. When the Vietnamese invaded their kingdom, most aristocrats fled to Cambodia; whereas, the poor peasants remained in Vietnam. Evidence still remains of this once flourishing civilization;-grandiose temples and sanctuaries, irrigation systems, woven cloth, sculpture, and jewelry.

The Western Cham are a mixture of Cham and Malay, with whom they traded during the time of their powerful kingdom.

Where Are they Located?

The Cham people live mainly in Cambodia and Vietnam, but a smaller number have strayed to Thailand.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Although they are descendants of a warlike people, the Cham today are very timid individually, but more courageous in a group. They are extremely honest in word and deed, to the extent that stealing and lying are almost unknown among them. Since every action must be sanctioned by ancestral practices, progress tends to be slow among the Cham. As a people they are fond of chess, jewelry, and music.

Since the downfall of the Champa Kingdom, the Cham have changed from a prosperous seafaring power to a small agrarian culture. To supplement their agricultural earnings, the Cham engage in small commerce, such as buying rice from neighbors and transporting it by boat. Some Cham are involved in making carts or in beekeeping.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Hundreds of years ago the Cham were Hindu. Unlike most of the peoples of the region, the Cham in Thailand are Muslims. The date that Islam was introduced is undetermined, but Malay influence is responsible for restoring and strengthening the Muslim practices of the Cham. Nonetheless, restrictions of Islam law, such as the prohibition to eat pork and drink alcohol, have been relaxed among the Cham, who live near Buddhist peoples.

Perhaps partly because of their Muslim background, the Cham people highly value having their girls remain virgins until they are married in their mid-teens.

What Are Their Needs?

The Cham people have faced rejection and isolation. They need to experience the acceptance and love of the Savior.

Prayer Points

* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to the Western Cham of Thailand.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to mission agencies focusing on the Cham.
* Ask the Lord to raise up an army of faithful intercessors who will pray for the Western Cham.
* Pray that God will give the Cham believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Western Cham church to the glory of His name!

Text Source:   Keith Carey