The South Asians of East Africa
Pray for the South Asian communities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Many Indians came as laborers in the late 1800s and stayed on. They are known now as successful businessmen, controlling a significant segment of the economy even though they are a small minority. They are Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.
Population: 82,000 in Kenya, 60,000 in Tanzania, and 15,000 in Uganda.
Location and Background: The majority of South Asians live in the big cities- Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Kampala. Most of them are involved in business—they are believed to control about 40% of Uganda’s economy with their involvement in manufacturing, pharmacies, insurance companies, sugar industry, banks, real estate and hotels.
History: The Portuguese brought Asian laborers to East Africa in the 16th c to build Fort Jesus in Mombasa. Gujarati traders arrived in the 19th c and soon controlled trade in Zanzibar. Still today, their descendants control a sizable portion of the economy of Zanzibar. The British brought 32,000 indentured laborers from India (mostly Gujarat and Punjab provinces) to build the Mombasa to Kampala railway. Once completed, many stayed on and brought their families. Many settled in Nairobi. They prospered and gained political representation from the colonial powers. At the time of Kenyan independence, they were made to choose between British and Kenyan citizenship. Those who chose British citizenship were forced to leave. In Tanzania, the president ensured equal rights for all and so ushered in a smooth transition to independence. In Uganda, Idi Amin expelled all the Asians after independence, but in 1992 President Museveni simplified a law, allowing the Asians to return and re-acquire their lost businesses.
Culture: South Asians in East Africa include Punjabi, Gujarati, and Kutchi speakers. They often live in close knit communities and maintain their culture and close ties to family in India.
Religion: The majority of Hindi speakers practice Hinduism, which is more a lifestyle than a religion, where they worship a pantheon of gods, both good and evil. Hinduism teaches the soul never dies but is reincarnated. The law of “karma” states actions affect how the soul will be reborn. Gujarati Muslims worship Allah and obey the five pillars of Islam. The Sikh community is recognized by their traditional turbans and beards. They believe in the Equality of Mankind, the universal Brotherhood of Man, and One Supreme God (Ik Onkar). They strive for the union of the soul with God by disciplining their thoughts and actions to dispel lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego. They believe they can escape reincarnation if they achieve the union of their soul with God.
Latest Prayer Updates:
Pray for a Muslim S. Asian family who are preparing for the wedding of their eldest daughter this month. They have heard the gospel but have steadfastly resisted putting their faith in Christ for salvation, preferring to cling to legalism. Pray that the Lord will bring a breakthrough as they pass through this Christmas season, and that if the marriage will hinder the daughter from believing in Christ, that she will be delivered from that alliance.
Pray for a S. Asian Muslim family who seem very hungry for God’s Word, yet cling to Islam. They are eager for friendship with Christians, and welcome them to their home. They turn conversations almost immediately to spiritual topics, asking many questions for hours. But then they argue with the answers they receive and seem to be trying to convert the Christians to Islam. Still, their loneliness and restless unhappiness shows. Pray that very soon they will become far less interested in Islam, not even remembering to compare whenever we read the Bible together. Pray that they will truly try to understand the Word of God. Pray for the Holy Spirit to open their eyes so that the spiritual truths can be discerned and embraced.