The Kerinchi of Indonesia
The Kerinchi were originally from the eastern coast of Sumatra. In ancient wars with Muslim sultanates, they fled to the interior of the island. They then settled in their present location, which is high in the Bukit Barisan Mountains.
Some studies have linked the Kerinchi with the Minangkabau of western Sumatra, but they actually appear to be more closely associated with the Rejang. The Kerinchi have managed to survive as a separate people, while becoming enriched by the coastal cultures.
Today, the isolation of the Kerinchi is being lessened by government-sponsored mass relocations of Javanese, Sudanese, and Balinese. Many of these have been brought into the area to work on plantation projects. In addition, a world-class national park is being developed to preserve the rain forest, plants, and animals of the region. Consequently, even more outsiders will be drawn to the remote area of the Kerinchi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The earliest European visitors to the Kerinchi were impressed by the irrigated rice fields and by the diligence and relative prosperity of the people. The rich, volcanic ash led to a very fertile soil ideally suited to agriculture. Abundant streams promoted fishing as a supplement to farming.
Today, the Kerinchi population is composed of farmers, craftsmen, tailors, coffee-shop owners, plantation workers, and bus drivers. Rice is the main staple of their diet, coupled with fish, vegetables, and poultry. Most cooking is done on the ground, using wood for fuel. The people usually boil their water before drinking it.
Traditional Kerinchi houses are usually very similar to other Southeast Asian "long-houses." Extended families live together under one roof, but with separate family apartments. However, Kerinchi homes are unique in that they lack any public passageway to join the apartments. The central room belongs to the oldest female of the family.
Kerinchi social structure is primarily matriarchal (female-dominated). This is a very unusual feature for a Muslim group. Within society, there are various levels of relationships. The smallest unit is the sapiyau, which consists of a mother and her children. Two or more sapiyau from the same grandmother form a sapintu, and other groupings follow.
In marriage, no bride-price is paid. The husband becomes attached to, though never part of, his wife's family. When children are born, daughters are preferred to sons. A woman's brother transmits a title of rank to her sons, but actual property in land and houses is passed down from a mother to her daughters. This is called "lineage property." The actual managers of the property are the nine-mama ("mature uncles").
The Kerinchi place great emphasis on community rule through female clans. Their unwritten common law and tradition is called adat. Once boys reach puberty, they are no longer allowed to sleep in the family house. They move to the local prayer houses, where itinerant Muslim clerics teach them. Young men are expected to leave their villages in search of fame and fortune. This act is known as merantau.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Although the Kerinchi are 100% Muslim, they have retained many animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits), especially in the areas of healing and farming. The head of the adat ties charms containing verses from the Koran to the wrists of sick children. Offerings of money are also made to reverse misfortune or bad crops.
Kerinchi society has a long-standing tradition of resisting change, holding firmly to village opinions. Christianity is perceived as being a Western religion, with Jesus being respected as no more than a prophet.
What Are Their Needs?
The Kerinchi are without the Bible, radio broadcasts, or the Jesus film in their own language. Although some of the villagers have been evangelized to some degree, the people still need the Gospel message of grace. Showing them how believing in Jesus will benefit the entire society is an important first step in reaching them.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to work among the Kerinchi of Indonesia.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is targeting them.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Kerinchi.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Kerinchi through dreams and visions.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Kerinchi bound for many generations.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Kerinchi who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Kerinchi.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Kerinchi
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Kerinchi (Akit)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 0%
- Church members: 0
- 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: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 32,800 (10%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 295,000 (90%)
- 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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