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The Kubu of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The nearly 11,000 Kubu live on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They are believed to be the descendants of a pygmy race of wandering Negrito people. The first Kubu settlement was located on the Lalan River. Today, they live primarily in the Jambi province.

Legend says that the coast of Sumatra was regularly visited by pirates and their families. It once happened that one of the pirates committed incest with his sister, causing her to become pregnant. Condemned by the pirates, the pair were abandoned in the coastal brush of Sumatra. The Kubu are the descendants of this couple.

The name "Kubu" comes from the word Ngumbu which means "elusive." This belittling name was given to them to suggest that they are a primitive people because they eat unclean foods, do not live in houses, and do not like to bathe. The Kubu, however, prefer to call themselves the Orang Darat, which means "land dweller" or "river dweller."

What are their lives like?
The Kubu are forest dwellers found primarily in swampy areas near various rivers. Most are involved in the farming of yams, maize, rice, and sugar cane. Since the Kubu are not hard workers, their fields are poorly kept. Jungle produce and small game provide much of the food. Their basic diet consists of wild pigs, fish, monkeys, bananas, and yams.

The Kubu are found most frequently in settled villages called sirups. Their houses are built on platforms without any walls, and are made with bamboo and leaves. Usually three to five houses form a village. An older person serves as chief, but has no real authority.

Every Kubu has a name; but this name is only known by members of the same sirup. People of other villages are simply referred to as "people of this or that little river." The villagers of one settlement rarely come into contact with those of another, since there are no feasts, "coming of age" ceremonies, or other community gatherings.

The little contact they do have with their Malay neighbors has traditionally been through silent trade. The Kubu would take their goods to a place where Malay traders could look at them. The traders would then place the goods that they were willing to exchange nearby, then withdraw to a safe distance. If the deal was satisfactory, the Kubu would take what was offered and vanish back into the brush.

Along with the tradition and simplicity of their material culture, the Kubu are also lacking in social and religious development. Musical instruments of any kind and dancing are unknown to them.

What are their beliefs?
Although the Kuba are considered to be Muslim, they still practice various animistic rituals, such as curing ceremonies. (Animism is the belief that inanimate objects have spirits.) Their witchdoctors, called shamans, make offerings to the spirits for them.

What are their needs?
Unfortunately there are no Christian resources available to the Kubu in their language. However, linguists are currently working on translating the Bible into Kubu. This lack of resources makes it very difficult for the small number of Kubu Christians. It is imperative that a detailed study be done to develop effective church planting strategies. Medical and agricultural helps are two definite methods that could be used to reach the Kubu.

One of the greatest difficulties in evangelizing this region is the hostility of the local Muslims towards Christians. In fact, many Christians there are often persecuted for their beliefs. Another problem is that some of the Christians there are still influenced by Islam.

It is our responsibility as Christians to reach out to the Kubu by showing them the love and compassion of Jesus. There are two missions agencies currently working among the Kubu. They need our prayers and support as they work to win the trust of the people. Although long-standing tradition seems to hinder evangelization, God's power is greater than any tradition.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that Muslim laws in Indonesia which restrict the preaching of the Gospel will be changed.
  • Ask God to create an openness to Christianity within the hearts of the Kubu.
  • Pray that God will raise up laborers who understand the Muslim culture and who can effectively take the Gospel to them.
  • Ask the Lord to bless the efforts of the linguists who are working to translate the Bible into Kubu.
  • Pray that God will provide contacts, strategies, and wisdom for the missions agencies that are trying to reach the Kubu.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will protect the small number of Kubu Christians.
  • Ask God to raise up a strong local church among the Kubu.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Kubu
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: kubu
  • Population: (1990) 10,100
    (1995) 10,900
    (2000) 11,800
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionists 80%
    Muslims (Sunnis) 18%
  • Christians: 2%
  • Church members: 219
  • 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: 2
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 3,100 (28%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 900 (8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 2,200 (20%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 7,800 (72%)
  • 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 10.7%
    Sudanese Indonesian 3.1%
    Han Chinese 2.6%
  • Major religions: Muslims 43.7%
    New-Religionists 35%
    Christians 13%
    Ethnic religionists 2.6%
    Hindus 1.9%
    Nonreligious 1.9%
    Buddists 1.0%
  • Number of denominations: 113

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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