Rohingya in Malaysia

Map Source:  People Group Location: Omid. Other geography / data: GMI. Map Design: Joshua Project
People Name: Rohingya
Country: Malaysia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 96,000
World Population: 2,247,500
Primary Language: Rohingya
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South Asia Muslim - other
Affinity Bloc: South Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Myanmar or Burmese government violently persecutes the Rohingya people and calls them "non-natives." The Rohingya are Muslims not Buddhists as are the Burmese majority. Thousands of Rohngya have had to flee for their lives. Some of them have fled to Muslim nation of Malaysia for refuge.

Rakhine, a northwest province of Myanmar and the ancient home of the Rohingya people, is more a frontier province of eastern India than a province of Burma (now called Myanmar). From the very early days till the arrival of the Mongolians and Tibeto-Burmans in the 10th century, Rakhine was an Indian land with a Muslim population similar to Bengal. The spread of Islam in Rakhine during those early times and the impact of Islamic civilization on Rakhine after Bengal became Muslim in 1203 A.D. is accepted by historians.

According to history, Islam reached Rakhine in the late 8th century AD and attracted the local people to come to Islam in masse. Since then, Islam played an important role towards the advancement of civilization in Rakhine. Muslims ruled Rakhine between 1430 to 1638. The system of government (Muslim sultanates) was common in those days. It was an independent Muslim kingdom in the 14th and 15th centuries.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Some Rohingya in Malaysia live in tents in refugee camps. They are dependent on government, NGOs and UN aid just to survive. Even though they share the same religion, Malaysians consider the Rohingya as outsiders. They feel that Rohingya take jobs and resources from Malaysian citizens. The Rohingya men have to take the lowest jobs in sanitation and construction while women find employment as low-paid domestic servants. A large part of the Rohingya people in Rakhine were illiterate or barely literate farmers. Since they do not own land in Myanmar, many kinds of employment were not open to them. While the conditions in Malaysia are better than in Myanmar, the Rohingya face great challenges. They must learn the Malaysian language, learn new job skills and enroll their children in Malaysian schools.

The Rohingya in Malaysia marry among themselves. A man may have up to four wives but one wife is the norm. Traditionally, the Rohingya have many children as they are seen as Allah's blessing. Due to the disruptions in their lives, marriage and having children are often put off until the Rohingya gain more stable living conditions.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Rohingyas are staunch followers of Sunni Islam. There are mosques and Madrassahs (religious schools) in every quarter and Rohingya village. The men pray in congregation, whereas the female pray at home. Sunnis try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam that they will attain heaven when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Sunnis 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.

What Are Their Needs?

The Rohingyas need a safe place to live. They need freedom from violent oppression, and the opportunity to earn a decent living. Their children must get an education. Most of all, the Rohingya need to believe in Isa or Jesus. He alone can forgive their sins and give them hope for a better future.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Rohingya people to find safe refuge in Malaysia, Indonesia and other nations.

Pray for the Rohingya to find good jobs and schools for their children.

Pray that Christian NGOs would be able to share the good news with Rohingya in refugee camps.

Pray that the Lord will raise up a church among the Rohingya people in Malaysia in this decade.

Text Source:   Joshua Project