Karava in Sri Lanka

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Map Source:  People Group data: Omid. Map geography: UNESCO / GMI. Map Design: Joshua Project
People Name: Karava
Country: Sri Lanka
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 1,108,000
World Population: 1,108,000
Primary Language: Sinhala
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 7.40 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South Asia Buddhist
Affinity Bloc: South Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Sri Lanka has been called one of the most beautiful places in the world. Unfortunately, a 26-year civil war starting in 1983 took place in the island country. Up to 100,000 died and there was millions of dollars in property damage. The majority Buddhist Sinhalese declared victory over the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Since that time Sri Lankan economy has begun to rebound and tourists have returned to the island. According to ancient records the Karava people moved from the south coasts of India to Sri Lanka in the 13th century. They became Buddhists and began speaking the Sinhalese language. The Karava are a seafaring people who make their living from fishing and in shipping goods across the sea. The Karava also served in the Sri Lankan and Indian navies that fought against the European colonial powers. With their wealth the Karava often bought tracts of land that other people work. Today they own rubber, tea and coconut plantations. A revised Sinhalese complete Bible became available in 2009.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Karava were on the winning Buddhist side in the Sri Lankan war. However, they lost many people in the war and much of their property was destroyed or damaged. The Karava are considered an upper caste in Sir Lankan society. The encourage their children to obtain college degrees and learn English. They are still making their livelihood from the sea by fishing, oyster farming, shell collecting, moving goods and serving in the Sri Lankan navy. The emblem of their people is the sea god Varuna.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Karava practice Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha. He lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation. The majority of Buddhists also practice animism, a belief in the spirit world. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in December.

What Are Their Needs?

The Karava need to begin to see themselves as sinners living before the one, true God. Only Jesus can forgive their sin and give them eternal life. Their high status in Sri Lankan society can be a hindrance to accepting the gospel.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to send workers to the Karava to tell them about Jesus. Pray that the Christ followers in this people would grow in the faith and live exemplary lives. Ask the Lord to raise up a Disciple Making Movement among the Karava of Sri Lanka in this decade. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully through those ministering to the Karava people.

Text Source:   Joshua Project