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The Bimanese of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Bimanese are natives of the Indonesian Islands. Indonesia is located in the Indian Ocean just south of Vietnam. It is the fourth most populous country in the world and continues to grow rapidly. It has a variety of ethnically diverse cultures, with more than 300 distinct people groups. Many of these groups, including the Bimanese, are Muslim.

The Bimanese live on the island of Sumbawa. The name "Sumbawa" originally referred to the western part of the island, whereas the eastern part of the island was called "Bima." Today, however, the entire island is known as Sumbawa.

The Bimanese live in the valleys of the island and may be related to the Sasak, who live on the nearby island of Lombok. Their language, called Bima, is part of the Malayo-Polynesian family. According to local tradition, Bima has had 52 ruling princes, the names of which testify to the influence of Hinduism.

What Are Their Lives Like?
Despite a long coastline, Bimanese villages usually lie at least 5 kilometers (4 miles) from the coast. Much of the island is covered by open fields. Rice lands are farmed year round along the northern river coasts and the central river valleys. The climate is tropical with little change in temperature. Sumbawa is also marked by distinct wet and dry seasons.

The lifestyle of the Bimanese revolves around the farming of wet and dry rice, and the gardening of fruits and vegetables. While rice is the major crop, secondary crops include onions, beans, and some tobacco and coffee. Besides farming, Sumbawa is also rich in forest products such as nuts, rattan (a type of palm), and beeswax.

Ever since the fourteenth century, Sumbawa has been known for its small and sturdy horses. These horses were exported to the nearby island of Java. In the 1920's Bima was once again an important horse breeding area.

A Bimanese village is often surrounded by smaller settlements. The people generally go to the mountains where they live on community farms for part of the year, then return to their home villages after harvesting.

If a young man wishes to propose marriage, he will send a "go-between," an eloquent woman, to the young girl. The woman will then make the proposal in a formal language. Upon acceptance of the proposal, the groom must then pay a "bride price" to the girl's parents. The price will depend on the social status of the bride. Once married, the young couple immediately establishes their own independent household.

The most important local unit of the Bimanese is the village. Each village has its own Muslim temple, called a mosque. The head of the mosque is responsible for all religious ceremonies and yearly festivals.

What Are Their Beliefs?
The 38th ruler of Sumbawa (Bima) was converted to Islam around 1640; and today the Bimanese are 99.9% Muslims. However, there are a large number of natives who still practice the area's original animistic beliefs. (Animism is the belief that non-living objects have spirits.)

The shaman, or witchdoctor, also plays an important role in the Bimanese culture. Today there are numerous Shamans left in the society. Many Bimanese claiming to hold Islamic beliefs still rely heavily on the help of the Shaman, especially in times of crisis.

What Are Their Needs?
There is only a handful of known believers among the Bimanese. Unfortunately, they have very few of the needed resources for church growth or evangelization. Only one mission agency is currently targeting the Bimanese. There are no Christian radio or television broadcasts available in the Bimanese language, and the Bible has not yet been translated.

Jesus is not willing that any should perish! The Bimanese are a people lost in spiritual darkness, trapped in the bondages of Islam and animism. Who will be willing to go and tell the Bimanese the Truth?

Prayer Points
  • Pray against the spirits of Islam and animism that have kept the Bimanese bound for many generations.
  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Indonesia and share the love of Christ with the Bimanese.
  • Pray that God will give the missions agency wisdom and favor as they reach out to the Bimanese.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the 55 known Bimanese Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Bima language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of these Muslims towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will open the hearts of Indonesia's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Bimanese.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Bimanese
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Bima (Kola)
  • Population: (1990) 505,500
    (1995) 546,300
    (2000) 588,200
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 55
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 109,300 (20%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 16,400 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 92,900 (17%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 437,000 (80%)
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Population: (1990) 182,811,600
    (1995) 197,587,700
    (2000) 212,730,600
  • Major peoples in size order: Javanese 26.2%
    Javanese Indonesian 10.7%
    Sudanese 10.6%
    Madurese 5.7%
    Sudanese Indonesian 3.1%
  • Major religions: Muslim 43.7%
    New Religionist 35%
    Christian 13%
  • Number of denominations: 113

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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