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The Luwu of Indonesia

[IMAGE] Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and continues to grow rapidly. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with more than 300 distinct people groups, many of whom are Muslim. Located in southeastern Asia, the many islands of Indonesia command vital sea routes between Australia, Europe, and the Asian mainland. These islands are the principal link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The 394,900 Luwu are located in the eastern part of central Sulawesi in the Luwu district. Specifically, they live in the sub-districts of Limbong and Sabbang. Their language, which is called Luwu or Taeo, is a part of the Austronesian language family. It is also somewhat related to the language of the Toraja, one of the main ethnic groups in the region. Little is known about the specific lifestyle and culture of the Luwu, but it is assumed that they are very similar to other groups living in central Sulawesi.

What are their lives like?
Sulawesi is an island with a coastline of about 3,500 miles. It consists mainly of four peninsulas separated by deep gulfs, with two of the peninsulas extending southward and two, northeastward. On the southern part of the island is one of Sulawesi's highest points, Mount Lompobatang, an extinct volcano reaching a height of 9,419 feet. Although the climate of the area is tropical, it is somewhat modified by elevation and the closeness of the sea.

For the Luwu, wet rice grown in swiddens (land cleared by "slash and burn" agriculture) is the staple crop, but sweet potatoes, sugarcane, various vegetables, tobacco, and coffee are also grown. Scattered among the clearings are their homes, which are usually built on stilts. They are generally made of woven grasses and have very high roofs.

Distinct social classes are still quite pronounced for most groups in Sulawesi, with a higher noble class, a lower noble class, and the commoners. Each class usually has its own code of behavior, along with various customs and traditions. A region is typically divided into village territories, and rights to land use are administered by the village council. However, the council retains ultimate ownership of all the land.

Luwu marriage customs require payments to the girl's family at the time of engagement and again at the wedding. The amount of the bride-price depends on the social rank of the young man. Prior to marriage, he is required to serve a probationary period with his prospective parents-in-law, and this requirement gives rise to a high degree of elopement. In the past, slaves and their descendants were not permitted to marry each other, though they could live together. Also, noble women did not marry commoners. Polygyny (having more than one wife) was common among some of the aristocracy but is no longer a common practice.

Today, Indonesia has more than eight million farmers who do not own land. To those willing to move from overcrowded areas to less developed islands, the government offers free land, housing, and other assistance.

What are their beliefs?
Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia today and is practiced by much of the population. Hinduism, widespread in the archipelago before the fourteenth century, is now practiced by only a small number of people, chiefly on the island of Bali. About 13% of the country's total population are Christians, primarily Protestant, and many of the Chinese follow Buddhist-Taoist teachings. Animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) is followed by tribes in remote areas.

Islam has been dominant since the 1600's, and the Luwu are 95% Shafi'ite Muslims. However, traditional beliefs are still very important, especially the belief in evil spirits.

What are their needs?
The Luwu have no available Christian resources, but there is one missions agency currently working among them. The Bible and other materials need to be translated into their language, and the missions work needs to be extended. Intercession is the key to seeing the Luwu won to Christ.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call missionaries who can share the Gospel with the Luwu in culturally relevant ways.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint the efforts of the missions agency that is targeting the Luwu.
  • Pray that the Bible, the Jesus film, and evangelical literature will soon be available in the Luwu language.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Luwu through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Luwu who will boldly declare the Gospel.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Luwu bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be established among the Luwu.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Luwu
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Luwu
  • Population: (1990) 365,600
    (1995) 394,900
    (2000) 425,100
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 95%
    Nonreligious 4.9%
  • Christian: 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: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 82,900 (21%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 11,800 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 71,100 (18%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 312,000 (79%)
  • 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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