The Banjara People

Summary

The Banjara are an unreached group of people of almost 70 million worldwide. They are the ancestors of the European Gypsies. 60 million live in India. In India, the Banjara live mostly in rural areas, in small villages or “thandas.” Literacy is very low, and most never heard have the name of Jesus. Because they are poor and rural, they are an overlooked and neglected people. But, they are a wonderful people, and we at GBBMI long to see them made new in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Banjara farmers raise just enough to support their families while often living in very primitive conditions without running water, electricity, or other comforts. Public schools are of very poor quality offering education only up to the 5th grade in some villages. Please go to the Joshua Project website for more detailed information on the Banjara.

The Banjara tend to worship idols and a collection of a few Hindu gods and goddesses. They worship these idols out of ignorance, usually because they have not had the chance to hear the good news of Jesus.

“Why hasn’t anyone told us this before?”

Often, when Banjara ministers supported by GBBMI go into a Banjara village to preach Jesus for the first time, those who truly understand the message will ask “why hasn’t anyone told us this before?” This question pierces our hearts. They understand that their parents and grandparents have perished without Jesus because they never heard of Jesus. We are driven by the God-given responsibility to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

History

  • The Banjara peoples migrated through Armenia, Iran, and Turkey to Europe and scattered in the Southern and other parts of India, they now have a population of around 68.4 million.
  • Banjara are also known as  Lambadi and Sugali and also up to 50 different names in India.
  • They live in small settlements away from urban areas, referred to as Thanda.

Religion

  • Within the Banjara Religion people typically worship idols.
  • Some offer blood sacrifices to appease their deities.
  • Other beliefs typically held by the Banjara people are:
    • Superstitions
    • Witchcraft / Sorcery
    • Spirits
    • Worship of Ancestors

Need for Education among Banjara Children

The literacy rate among the Banjara people is 12 percent in men and 3 percent in women. The Banjara language has no script or system of writing, constraining them to educate themselves through local languages only. Due to the isolated and aloof nature of the Banjara, they do not mingle easily with other communities. The Indian caste system has also played a role in isolating and damaging the Banjara people’s chance at education and growth. Many children are not taken care of and some are abandoned.

Socio-Economic Conditions

  • Banjara are a very large nomadic ethnic group.
  • High Rates of Illiteracy
  • Economically Weak
  • Superstitious nature of religion hinders social reform.
  • Lack of Education leads to
    • High Crime
    • High Unemployment
  • Primitive Agricultural Practices
  • Both Men and Woman are confined to laborious work surrounding agriculture and cattle grazing.
  • Banjara children are often abandoned while parents work.
  • Children are poorly cared for:
    • Unsanitary Conditions
    • Malnutrition
    • Disease
    • Parasites
    • Other Health Issues
  • Drop out rates are very high due to poor educational standards and the demand for children to work for earnings.

Aletheia Banjara School

GBBMI partners directly with GBBM-India to support Aletheia Banjara School.  Aletheia is accredited by the Indian government and currently educates almost 480 Banjara students in classes ranging from Pre-Primary School to 10th grade.  Students study several subjects including maths, history, Telugu and English.   Students also attended a weekly “Moral Sciences” class where they learn Christian character qualities and Bible verses using a  curriculum written by Collierville Bible Church of Collierville, Tennessee.

Aletheia Banjara School is the best local educational school for Banjara students.  Given that most Banjara children do not receive an adequate education GBBMI believes this program ministers directly to the felt needs of Banjara families.  In addition, students are taught by Christian teachers who model Christ’s love and who teach Christian principles.

Aletheia Banjara School is funded by generous donors around the globe who follow God’s leading in providing scholarships for students.  A scholarship is a yearly cost of $360 and provides uniforms, books, teacher’s salary, lunch and a snack for the students.  For more information on the scholarship program please contact Marcia Whitehorn (GBBMI Director of Scholarships) at gbbmi.abs@gmail.com.

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