Punjabi

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Immigrants from: India and Pakistan

Population in Australia: 150,000

Where in VIC: Wyndham, Casey, Whittlesea, Dandenong, Brimbank, Hume.

Languages: Punjabi (and Hindi or Urdu)

Religion: Sikh 86%, Hindu 12%, Muslim, Secular.

Christian witness: 0.46% in Australia

The Punjabi have a unique religious background and worldview. In the 7th Century the Punjabi homeland was invaded by Muslim Arabs. Islam did not overrun the Hindu religious practices of the Punjabi but it had significant influence, specifically in its strict monotheism. The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539), sharing things in common with both Hindu and Muslim belief systems. Combined with a strong nationalism and military tradition the Sikh faith quickly spread to the majority of the Punjabi people.

There is higher than average representation of Punjabi people among both the Indian and Pakistani military and police services. As immigrants they often gravitate towards jobs in security and the police force. Part of their identity is in their self-designated responsibility to maintain order in society. 

Most Punjabi come from an agricultural heritage. Urban Punjabi highly value education. Their dress is usually loose fitting, in fact our word “pyjamas” comes from the Punjabi style of clothing. 

Many Punjabi immigrants have had a very difficult time arriving in Australia. Students are recruited by agents in India and promises are exaggerated. People mortgage their farms to send their adult children to study in Australia. It is a common story that the money students come with disappears much faster than expected. Many have found it very difficult to find enough work to support themselves and their families. Changes in immigration policy have made it harder for students to apply for residency and much more expensive to bring their parents out.

Punjabi people need to understand that Christianity is not only the religion of the British Empire. The message of Jesus needs to be communicated in a way that does not entangle it with western identity and put it in conflict with the Punjabi desire to maintain their cultural identity.