The Bugis of Indonesia and Malaysia
A cluster of 6 closely related groups.
The Buginese cluster (also known as the Bugis) includes the Buginese and four other closely related groups: the Maiwa, the Mamuju, the Mandar, and the Pattae'. Except for the Buginese of Malaysia, all of these tribes live in the South Sulawesi Province of central Indonesia.
The Bugis tribes speak various dialects of Sulawesi, which is a Malayo-Polynesian language. The Mamuju live in the Mamuju district, primarily along the coast. They speak a distinct dialect that is very prestigious since it is the trade language of the area. The Pattae' live in the valleys along the Mamasa River and speak a dialect of Mamasa. The other tribes dominate the southwestern 'leg' of Sulawesi, and inhabit a lush, mountainous region that consist of caves, waterfalls, and large, shallow lakes.
The Bugis have a long-standing reputation as skilled warriors who helped establish the powerful Buginese Kingdom of the pre-colonial period. They are a self-sufficient people who have little respect for outsiders.
What are their lives like?
The Bugis were once known as fierce sailors and pirates; however, most of them now work as traders, fishermen, or rice farmers. Rice is both the main subsistence crop and a valuable export. Today, some Bugis farmers prepare wet rice land with tractors, although most still use oxen or buffalo. Since about one-third of the farmers in southern Sulawesi do not own enough land, they are forced to sharecrop on the fields of wealthier farmers.
The Bugis living in the river valleys grow both wet rice and coffee. Those living along the coast cultivate coconut, cocoa, cloves, maize, manioc, and rattan (a type of palm). Almost all of the people living on the coast are fishermen. The Bugis often work as day laborers in several Sulawesian cities.
Both fishing and farming are considered male tasks, although the Bugis women help the men at harvest time. The women are also expected to work in the homes by weaving silk sarongs and then selling them. (A sarong is a colorful skirt that is worn by both men and women.) In fact, most of the household income is earned by the selling of these sarongs.
Two distinguishing features of the Bugis society are its system of social rank and the existence of "circular migration." There is continual movement of individuals and families between their homeland and their work sites in the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Malaysia. The Bugis of lower rank can obtain a higher social status in their communities by gaining wealth and experience abroad. Together, these features form a highly structured society.
Many of the marriages are still arranged by parents or grandparents, and usually take place between close cousins. This is done to preserve the purity of the bloodline and to keep wealth within the family. A newlywed couple often lives with the wife's family for the first few years of their marriage. Houses are usually inherited by the daughters, while land and other wealth are divided equally among both sons and daughters. Most of the Bugis live in stilted houses, sometimes three meters (9 feet) or more off the ground, with plank walls and floors.
What are their beliefs?
The Bugis were among the early converts to Buddhism. However, in the early 1600's, they were forced to convert to Islam by the king of the Makassarese. Mandar traders spread Islam to the other Indonesian islands. Since that time, the Bugis have become a strong, even militant, Sunni Muslim people. They celebrate Islamic feasts and fasts, as well as praying five times a day. However, their Islamic practices are heavily influenced by spiritism (belief in many unseen gods) and ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors).
What are their needs?
The Bugis are Muslims, and have successfully resisted any attempts to bring them to the Gospel for over 400 years. Just prior to World War II, South Sulawesi experienced a small spiritual awakening and there may have been as many as 10,000 Bugis Christians at that time. Unfortunately, the Japanese destroyed most of the churches and the Islamic militants killed the remaining Christians. Today, the Indonesian government has closed its doors to Christian missionaries, and there is no known witness in the Bugis' villages.
The Bible has not yet been translated into the various Bugis dialects. Believers are persecuted, churches have been forced underground, and most villages have no access to the Gospel. Though there are a few Christian churches in other areas of Sulawesi, they have no burden for reaching their Muslim Bugis neighbors. These local churches are suffering from spiritual stagnation, and reports show that many of the Christians among them practice occultism. Biblical instruction and pastoring are severely lacking.
- Take authority over the powers and principalities that have kept the Bugis in darkness.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into each of the Bugis dialects.
- Pray that the Indonesian government will soon open its doors to Christian missionaries so that the Gospel can be freely preached freely among the Bugis.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Christians living near or among the Bugis.
- Pray that God will provide greater freedom to live and work among the Bugis.
- Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Bugis.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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