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The Bugis of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Bugis dominate the southwestern 'leg' of Sulawesi, one of Indonesia's major islands. They inhabit a lush, mountainous region of caves, waterfalls, and large, shallow lakes. Although many of the Bugis live in large port cities, the majority are located in small villages scattered along the coastline and along the rivers and major highways. They are a very proud people and view themselves as being superior to other people groups living on the island.

The Bugis speak a distinct language called Basa Ugi. They are known by others as being very fierce, war-like, and industrious. Honor, status, and rank are of great importance to the Bugis. They are a very self-sufficient people who have a positive self image and are very confident of their own abilities. As one of the major groups in the region (more than 3 million), they have had considerable influence on their neighbors. They are a staunch Sunni Muslims, and have been known to resist efforts to evangelize them.

What are their lives like?
The island of Sulawesi has a hot, humid climate with an average yearly temperature of about 27 degrees C (80 degrees F). The Bugis were once known as fierce seamen and pirates, however, most of them now earn their living as traders, fishermen, or rice farmers. Women are expected to work in the homes by weaving silk sarongs and then selling them. (A sarong is a colorful skirt that is worn by both men and women in Indonesia.) Most of the household income is earned by the selling of these sarongs.

Most Bugis live in stilted houses, sometimes three meters (9 feet) or more off the ground, with plank walls and floors. During growing seasons some family members may reside in little huts dispersed among the fields.

Many of the marriages are still arranged by parents and usually take place between close cousins. A newlywed couple often lives with the wife's family for the first few years of their marriage. Divorce is a common occurrence among the Bugis, particularly between couples united in arranged marriages.

The Bugis' diet consists mainly of rice, fish, maize, coconut, bananas, and tea. On certain festive occasions, buffalo is served as a special dish. Visual and performing arts, such as dance and shadow puppetry, are a rich part of the Bugis culture.

What are their beliefs?
The Bugis were converted to Islam in the early 1600's. Since that time they have become a strong, even militant, Sunni Muslim people. They celebrate Islamic feasts and fasts, as well as praying fives times a day. Their Islamic practices, however, are heavily influenced by spiritism (belief in many unseen gods) and ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors).

One well-known group of Bugis practice what they call Tuanni. This involves the worship of several gods such as the "potato god," the "rice god," and the "god of the kings." They also believe that certain illnesses and misfortunes are inflicted on people by the "spirits" of fire, air, earth, and water.

What are their needs?
The Bugis have successfully resisted any attempts to bring them to the Gospel for over 400 years. Just prior to World War II, South Sulawesi experienced a small spiritual awakening and there may have been as many as 10,000 Bugis Christians at that time. Unfortunately, the Japanese destroyed most of the churches and the Islamic militants killed the few remaining Christians. Today the government has closed its doors to Christian missionaries, and there is no known witness in the Bugis' villages.

Although the Bible was available in their native language around the turn of the century, that translation is now out of date. The new Basa Ugi translation has been started and awaits correction and publishing.

Believers are persecuted, churches have been forced underground, and most villages have no access to the Gospel. Though there are a few Christian churches in other areas of Sulawesi, they have no burden for reaching their Muslim Bugis neighbors. These local churches are suffering from spiritual stagnation, and reports show that many of the Christians among them practice occultism. Biblical instruction and pastoring are severely lacking.

Prayer Points

  • Pray against the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Bugis bound.
  • Ask God to raise up qualified linguists to finish translating the Bible into Basa Ugi.
  • Pray that the Sulawesian government will open its doors to Christian missionaries so that the Gospel can be preached freely to the Bugis.
  • Pray for the Lord to soften the hearts of this proud people and create in them a hunger to hear the message of Christ.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Christians living near or among the Bugis. Pray that they will remain steadfast in their commitment to the Lord.
  • Pray for God will give Sulawesian churches a burden to reach their Muslim neighbors.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up missionaries who can effectively minister the Gospel to Muslims.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Bugis.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Bugis
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: basa ugi
  • Population: (1990) 2,851,800
    (1995) 3,082,300
    (2000) 3,318,500
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 95%
  • Christians: 1%
  • Church members: 30,823
  • Scriptures in their own language: Portions. NT. Bible.
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 6
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,232,900 (40%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 215,800 (7%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 1,017,100 (33%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 1,849,400 (60%)


  • 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%
  • Number of denominations: 113

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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