Deli Malay of Indonesia

Population: 2 million
Primary Location: North Sumatra, Indonesia
Languages: Deli Malay, Bahasa Indonesia


Who are the Deli Malay?

The Deli Malay live along the eastern coastline of Sumatra, Indonesia. Deli villages are clustered along the coast, and often include not only Deli Malay people, but also people of other ethnic backgrounds such as Javanese and Minangkabau.


Most Deli Malay support themselves by fishing in the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and Malaysia. Deli fishermen go to sea daily in wooden fishing boats. In urban areas, many Deli Malay work as laborers, while those living near arable land may farm small plots of rice, fruit or vegetables.

Due to environmental degradation and non-sustainable fishing methods, independent fishermen have begun to struggle. Fishing conditions also vary seasonally. Employment among the Deli Malay is erratic. Unemployment is especially high among young, unmarried men.


The Deli Malay live in close-knit communities, with extended families often living in the same house or in close proximity. Deli Malay families are often large, with 5 or 6 children. Most Deli live in wooden houses raised on stilts over the coastal swamplands. Electricity is generally available, but access to clean water is still lacking. The rivers are often used not only for bathing and washing clothes but also for defecation.


Islam came to the Deli Malay in the 15th century. Today, Islam is central to Deli ethnic identity.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the Deli Malay and other people groups in Sumatra would begin to practice sustainable fishing methods, so that the ocean can continue to be an adequate source of income for the many families that depend on it.

  • Pray that followers of Jesus who live in Deli communities would build relationships of mutual respect and trust with their Deli neighbors, and that they would find opportunities to share the Good News not only through words, but also through practical service.

  • Pray that followers of Jesus around the world would begin to pray regularly for the Deli Malay.

Read the full profile

Deli Malay of Indonesia

Learn more about the Deli Malay

(External links)

Joshua Project People Profile
Wikipedia (Medan, Indonesia)
Deli Malay History
Deli Malay Language