The Pasemah of Indonesia
The Pasemah consist of several related people groups, including the Lematang, the Lintang, and the Lembak. They live on the island of Sumatra, particularly on the Pasemah Lebar highland plateau. Some Pasemah communities can also be found on the adjacent islands, especially those off the east coast of Sumatra, to the coast of Borneo.
The Pasemah were probably a people of coastal Borneo who later expanded to Sumatra and the Pasemah peninsula as a result of their trading and seafaring way of life. Their culture has been strongly influenced by people groups such as the Siamese, the Javanese, and the Sumatrans.
The Bukit Barisan Mountain Range is central to the historical and cultural development of the Pasemah. This area is the source of large, sluggish rivers that flow through highland plateaus. Eventually, these rivers drop onto the lowland plains, coastal marshes, and finally into the Bangka Straits on the east and the Indian Ocean on the west.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Pasemah live in villages that range in size from 50 to 1000 people. These villages are located along the coasts, rivers, and roadways. The people live in thatched roof houses that are built on stilts and stand four to eight feet off the ground. The wealthier people often live in homes with plank floors and tile roofs.
Farming is the primary occupation of the Pasemah, with about 80% of all employment being in agriculture. Rice, rubber, and coffee are the main crops. Wet-rice plots are worked by hoeing, or by plowing with oxen or water buffalo. Planting is carried out by groups of five to ten people who work either for wages or as part of a rotating work group. Harvesting is either done by the extended family members or by hired work groups that contain both men and women.
The diet of the Pasemah consists mainly of rice, along with corn, yams, legumes, sweet potatoes, and fish. Bananas are eaten year-round, together with seasonal fruits and peanuts. Chicken and goat are only eaten on special occasions. Water is plentiful for both drinking and agricultural purposes, since there is no real dry season in the region. However, since water from the rivers and wells is often polluted, it is not fit for drinking without first being boiled.
Family relationships, particularly between parents and their children, are very strong, The typical household consists of the husband, the wife, and their children. Children are cared for by both parents. The basic family doctrine is: "Gather together, whether we eat or starve."
Marriages have traditionally been arranged by the parents. Sons or daughters remaining in the household after marriage assume the responsibilities of caring for younger siblings, preserving family land or other wealth, and contributing to ritual feasts. Children who marry out of the family lineage break these ties of household responsibility.
Women wear Malay-style cotton sarongs (brightly colored skirts that are wrapped about the waist) with long-sleeved cotton blouses. They also wear jackets, scarves, and skirts over trousers; they do not wear veils. Men wear Western style cotton shirts and slacks.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Today, nearly all Pasemah are Shafiite Muslim, although the influence of Hinduism has historically been very great. A mosque serves as the formal religious center in each village, and most men try to attend Friday prayer services.
In rural areas, the Pasemah have preserved some of their pre-Islamic beliefs in spirits of the soil and of the jungle. Traditional medicines are still widely used, and occult healers are frequently consulted for physical and spiritual ailments.
What Are Their Needs?
Unemployment in rural areas is high. As a result, many of the men have moved to the cities in search of jobs. Since the high school dropout rate is high, mainly youth are chronically unemployment, not possessing the skills necessary for employment by local industries. Parents cannot afford the escalating costs of high school and university education, and dissatisfaction with the central government is frequently expressed.
- Ask the Lord to send resident missionaries to work among the Pasemah of Indonesia.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the two missions agencies that are currently targeting the Pasemah.
- Pray for production of the Jesus film in the Pasemah language.
- Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
- Pray for Christian educators to use their skills as an avenue of ministry to the Pasemah.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Pasemah bound for many generations.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Indonesia through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to save key governmental leaders in Indonesia who will begin boldly declaring the Gospel.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Pasemah
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Pasemah
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 262
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 131,400 (30%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 305,700 (70%)
- Country: Indonesia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 113
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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