The Asian-Indian (Indian) People

The Indian people, who are an integral part of the fabric of the Republic of South Africa (RSA), are the prodigy of indentured laborers who worked on sugar cane plantations in the old Province of Natal. They were forcefully imported from India in the latter part of the 18th century, up through the turn of the 19th century, as a part of a scheme by the Indian and British governments to exploit powerless people. Later, other Indian people came voluntarily in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Now there are approximately 1.2 million people (2.6% of the population) who identify themselves as Indian/Asian. They make up 9.4% of the population of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, and are heavily concentrated in the cities of Durban and Stanger. Nearly 200,000 Indians live in the Johannesburg area in Gauteng Province where they tend to live together in communities.

Some of the later arrivals came from the Indian Province of Bengal where they had been affected by the ministry of William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, who began his work in 1793. Between 1865 and 1900 a number of Indian Baptists arrived in the Durban area, and in 1903 the Baptist Home Mission Society of India sent a full-time missionary to work among the Indians in SA. From this the Baptist Association of SA (BASA), and Baptist Mission of SA (BMSA) were established, circa 1903, and are viable entities today.

In spite of the BASA and BMSA, and a wide array of other Great Commission Christian ministries, we estimate that no more than 4.3% of the Indian population are “born again” Christians. The majority are traditional Hindus, however, Islam is the fastest growing and most disturbing trend as over 10% of them are now practicing Moslems.

The Indians in SA are very industrious and entrepreneurial people who value education highly. They generally: speak English, although some still consider Hindi, Tamil or Telegu their first language; are among the middle and higher income brackets; are very family and community oriented; and, provide their own social welfare. However, modern influences are resulting in rebellion against traditional values, and this is being reflected in the HIV/AIDS and crime statistics.

IMB’s Southeastern Africa Cluster (SEAC) is engaged with Indians through the Durban Urban Evangelism Team (DUET), which is working in the Durban, Pietermaritzburg, and Stanger areas of the KwaZulu-Natal Province. A major part of their ministry is in the Indian communities. The Eastern Metropolitan Team (EMET) is also working with an Indian Church in the suburb of Buccleuch in Johannesburg. These efforts have shown that God is working among the Indian people throughout the region. Therefore, we are working, praying and trusting God to greatly expand this work.

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