The Malay people originated in Malaysia but were scattered to other areas of southeast Asia during the 5th century due to their expertise and domination of sea trade. Another factor in the spread of their people was due to being sold and shipped as slaves in the 1700s. One of the most populated areas hosting the Malay people is Indonesia where their population is 3,317,000.
The Indonesian Malay people live in rural areas with some of them working as wet rice farmers or on rubber tree plantations. Others are employed in urban areas, but very few have professional occupations. The traditional cloth-making batik of the Malay continues to be a popular tourist and local interest. The agricultural and trade aspects of the Malay could be used as a door to present the Gospel.
According to Joshua Project (joshuaproject.net), the Malay in Indonesia are 99.99% Islam. Regardless of their location, nearly all Malay cling to their family’s traditional religion combined with Islamic beliefs and practices. This is likely due to a Malayan law that defines a Malay as a “person belonging to any Malayan race who habitually speaks Malay and professes the Muslim religion.” While deeply committed to the Islamic faith, they also include Buddhism, Hinduism, and other superstitious practices with their Islamic beliefs and rituals.
Sadly, less than .01% of Malay in Indonesia follow Christ. Of these, the Christians separate from their communities because they feel like they can’t do anything significant; therefore, they go find a place where they feel they can make more of a difference. The Malay need committed Christians among them who will follow Christ and make a difference.
One of the Malay’s greatest needs is full-time missionaries—not just people who come through, preach a message somewhere and leave. They need missionaries who can get to know the people and work on evangelizing them full time. Of course, even if that did happen, they couldn’t start preaching publicly. They would have to build a close friendship with the people before giving the Gospel.
One creative way to share the Gospel would be to leave a tract for them to find, then ask them later what they thought of it. Since they are farmers, a missionary might also recreate a farming parable based on scriptural truths which could encourage a discussion.
God loves the Malay people. It won’t be easy, but with hard work and prayer, the Malay can be reached. Please pray for the Malay people of Indonesia.
Ways to pray for the Malay people: