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The Abung of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Abung tribes inhabit the province of Lampung, which is located on the southern tip of Sumatra. This tropical island has a hot, humid climate. The land, which is generally flat and swampy, is perfect for rice farming.

The term "Lampung" is used to describe all of the people groups of that area; but, in fact, there are several very different ethnic groups who live there.

Prior to the fifteenth century, the Abung lived in the mountains to the west. There they practiced a religion that was characterized by sacrifices, headhunting, and other cultic rituals. Around 1450, under the leadership of a cult hero named Minak Begeduh, the first Abung clans emigrated into the lowlands. Today, their culture shows a distinct mix with the coastal Malays.

Recently, the Indonesian government has forcibly relocated three million Javanese into southern Sumatra. As a result, the Abung are experiencing bitterness and unrest.

What are their lives like?
Abung villages may contain as many as 3,000 individuals, with up to 100 clan (extended family) households. Usually only a few people, such as the elderly, live in these clan homes. Working adults and children live in seasonal settlements most of the time.

A typical Abung village consists of houses that are built on poles or stilts. These houses center around one municipal building called a sesat. The sesat is generally a one-room house that has been divided into small rooms where people of different classes sit. The village government holds its meetings in the sesat.

Each village also contains a "festival house," where the whole community participates in initiation rites. Their system of initiation and social advancement clearly differentiates them from neighboring people groups.

The fundamental kin group of the Abung is called the suku. The line of descent is traced through the males. Every Abung clan belongs to one of three existing social classes. One's class position determines his obligations to the community. Male clan members may pass from one class to another by various initiation rites.

The Abung are dry rice farmers. The rice is cultivated on clearings made by burning the vegetation. Usually after one harvest of rice, the land is planted with pepper. For centuries this kind of pepper cultivation has provided a cash crop among the Abung. It has also provided an economic base for the celebration of their "tribal feasts," which are often very expensive. Fishing is important in the swampy areas, where dry rice cannot be grown. Domestic animals include water buffalo, cattle, goats, poultry, and ducks.

The diet of the Abung includes rice served with fish, vegetables, water buffalo, beef, or chicken.

What are their beliefs?
As a result of the islanders trading with Muslims, Islam edged its way into Sumatra by the end of the thirteenth century. Islamic influence slowly weakened the Abung culture, and local chiefs eventually lost their titles and power. Instead, Islamic laws began to be incorporated into their society. By the 19th century, the Abung were directly controlled by the Dutch colonial government.

Presently, the Abung are devout Sunni Muslims, strictly adhering to its practices. They identify with the Shafiite branch of Islam.

What are their needs?
Because of the Indonesian government's unfavorable migration policy, many of the Abung feel mistreated and have become very resentful. This bitterness has led to periods of civil unrest and conflicts with the Javanese newcomers. Tragically, the main source of an evangelical witness to the Abung is the Javanese Christians.

At the present time, there are no Christian radio or television broadcasts available in the language of the Abung. The Bible has not yet been translated into their dialect.

Although there is one mission agency now targeting the 71,000 Abung, there are still less than 100 known believers.

Prayer Points

  • Ask God to create a hunger in the hearts of the Abung and an openness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Ask the Lord to call loving Javanese Christians who are willing to share the Gospel with the Abung.
  • Pray that God will raise up other laborers who understand the Muslim culture and who can effectively take the Gospel to the Abung.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Abung Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Abung language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of these Muslims towards Christianity.
  • Pray that God will raise up a strong local church among the Abung.

See also The Lampung of Indonesia.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Abung
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Abung
  • Population: (1990) 658,900
    (1995) 712,200
    (2000) 766,700
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 71
  • 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: 128,300 (18%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 21,400 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 106,900 (15%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 583,900 (82%)
  • 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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