Cocos Islands Malay in Christmas Island

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Cocos Malays are the third largest population of Christmas Island, a territory of Australia. The first is Chinese and second is English/European/Australian. The Coco Malay emigrated to Christmas Island after a large emigration to Sabah, Malaysia, which created a Cocos Malay community. The majority of the group is Muslim. Christmas Island is one of two states and territories of Australia (the other being the Cocos Keeling Islands) where European Australians make up a minority of the population. The culture of Christmas Island is most significantly similar to Singapore, and it was also formerly a part of the country until it was transferred to Australia in 1958 for $20 million after Australia made a request to the British Government. The climate of Christmas Island is tropical with high humidity. Trade winds buffer the temperatures slightly for much of the year. The tropical cyclone season runs from October through April. The islands are flat coral atolls with little arable land. Only small amounts food is grown locally, however, coconuts are plentiful. Aside from coconut harvesting and a bit of tourism the Cocos Islands have little sustainability. Freshwater is obtained by collecting rainwater in underground reservoirs.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Malay society that exists today has been held together for eight generations by its isolation, shared economic endeavors, strong family loyalty, a deepening commitment to Islamic religion, and their unique version of the old Malay language of the East Indies. Few outsiders have lived among them and little has been recorded about their cultural and traditional practices. Despite their disparate origins, the Cocos Malay people achieved an identity of their own within one generation of settlement. The "Cocos-born", as they were officially referred to, lived separately from both the Javanese contract laborers and the European owner-settlers. They had their own mosques, their own leaders, and their own ceremonies. Despite their self-imposed isolation, elements of the English-Scottish traditions of the early overseeing families have been absorbed into Cocos Malay cultural practices. Certain foods, dances and musical influences have a Western flavor. Throughout each year, a large number of ceremonies are held at various houses in the community for a wide range of family celebrations. These include house blessings, welcomes, farewells, boat launchings, remembrances of deceased relatives, circumcisions, Koran readings and other family events. The most significant celebration of the year for the Cocos Malay people is Hari Raya Puasa, the day that marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The Cocos Malay people have shown a remarkable flair for adaptation despite their desire for isolation by accepting new cultural elements and blending them with traditions of their own. Several items to keep in mind when encountering the Cocos Malay people are to dress conservatively out of respect to the Muslim community, remove shoes when entering a house or mosque, enter a house at the backdoor unless the front door is propped open, use the right hand for eating, greeting, or serving, and refrain from touching anyone on the head.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Today the cornerstone of the Cocos Malay society and the focus of each individual's life is the Islamic religion. Few depart from its teachings and observances. The Cocos Malay people are primarily of the Sunni Muslim faith, although animistic beliefs and traditions remain.

What Are Their Needs?

The Cocos Islands need workers skilled in outreach to Muslims. With a small amount of tourism, outreach to people of other religions is also possible. Opportunities to help with medical and dental services are also available to missions-minded people with the right skills.

Prayer Points

Pray for a movement to Jesus to multiply among families and communities. Pray the Christmas Islanders will feel empowered in making decisions that affect them. Pray they will not be exploited by interests external to the island. Pray for Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) to be prepared for ministry unto their neighbors. Pray for their protection and provision while they engage in spiritual warfare. Pray for a Cocos Island Malay on Christmas Island movement to Christ and for workers to go!

Scripture Prayers for the Malay, Cocos Islands in Christmas Island.


Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Malay, Cocos Islands
People Name in Country Malay, Cocos Islands
Natural Name Cocos Islands Malay
Pronunciation muh-LAY
Alternate Names Cocos Islander; Kukus
Population this Country 400
Population all Countries 8,300
Total Countries 4
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 11399
ROP3 Code 102252
ROP25 Code 305027
ROP25 Name Malay

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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
100.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Malay, Cocos Islands (400 speakers)
Language Code coa   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Unknown
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Malay, Cocos Islands (400 speakers)
Language Code coa   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Malay, Cocos Islands

Primary Language:  Malay, Cocos Islands

Bible Translation Status:  Translation Needed

Resource Type Resource Name Source
None reported  
Photo Source Dragonboy13 - Wikimedia  Creative Commons 
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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