Introduction / History
Arabs make up the second largest ethnic group in the world after the Han Chinese. Most Arab peoples live in the Middle East and across North Africa. Smaller groups of Arabs live in other areas of the world including the nation of Sri Lanka. Arab merchants have been visiting Sri Lanka on trade journeys for over 500 years. Sri Lankan Muslims dominated the lucrative pearl trade. Some Arab traders decided to marry local women and make Sri Lanka their permanent home. Arab officers often served in the armies of Sri Lankan kings. Most Sri Lankan Arabs live in the Eastern and Western provinces. The Muslims of Sri Lanka experienced great loss of lives and property in the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009). The Muslims frequently sided with the victorious Sinhalese government army. The primary family language of Sri Lankan Arabs is the Iraqi dialect of Arabic. An Iraqi Arabic New Testament was completed in 2006. Indian Arabs also speak Sinhalese and other local Sri Lankan languages. Many educated Arabs speak English which helps them in their businesses.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Arabs of the Diaspora (those scattered throughout the world) are a diverse group. Some are wealthy upper class business owners. Others are lower middle class shop keepers or work in restaurants and in the trades. All of them take pride in their Arabic language and traditional culture. Sri Lankan Arabs want their children to marry within their group. Arab parents would prefer to bring in an Arab young person from Iraq or Iran than have their child marry a Sri Lankan. If the Arab parents can afford it, they have their child attend Arabic language study on Saturday or Sunday. In the Sri Lankan Arab family, the father is the head of the house. Women and mothers are gaining more independence and status as they attend universities and work outside the home. Sons often follow in the business of their father. A father and mother with many children, especially sons, are considered blessed by Allah or God. Most parents encourage their children to go to college and obtain professional degrees. Arab life revolves around going to mosque on Fridays with other Sri Lankan Muslims.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Arabs of Sri Lanka practice Islam. Muslims try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. They believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam that they will attain paradise when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Muslims 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. There are few if any followers of Christ among the Arabs of Sri Lanka.
What Are Their Needs?
Muslim Arabs of Sri Lanka need to understand the Isa or Jesus is much more than the human prophet of Islam. Muslims must see that their sins can only be forgiven by God through Jesus Christ.
* Scripture Prayers for the Arab in Sri Lanka.
Ask the Lord to call Muslim background believers in Sri Lanka to reach out and share the love of Christ with the Arab neighbors. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Arabs of Sri Lanka towards Christ so that they will be more receptive to the gospel. Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap and pray for the Sri Lankan Arabs. Ask the Lord to raise up a Disciple Making Movement among the Arabs in Sri Lanka in this decade.