The Rawas of Indonesia
The 164,000 Rawas belong to a much larger cluster of peoples known as the Kubu, who live scattered throughout the swampy regions of Sumatra's east coast, in Indonesia. The Kubu are believed to be the descendants of a pygmy race of wandering Negrito people.
Legend says that in ancient times the coast of Sumatra was regularly visited by pirates and their families. The fable continues that a pirate brother and sister committed incest and the girl became pregnant. Accursed by the pirates, the pair was abandoned in the coastal brush and founded the first Kubu settlement on the Lalan River.
During the seventeenth century, the Rawas were conquered by Prince Ratu Senuhun who came from Palembang in southern Sumatra. From that time until recently, they have managed to avoid any major contact with the general Malaysian population. However, they have adopted the language, social structure, and religion of the Palembang Malay.
What are their lives like?
Like the Kubu, the Rawas 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 Rawas 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 Rawas 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 Rawas 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 the Rawas do have with their Malay neighbors has traditionally been through silent trade. For instance, the Rawas 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 Rawas would take what was offered and vanish back into the brush. This mode of trade is gradually beginning to change.
Along with the tradition and simplicity of their material culture, the Rawas 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 Kubu 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 Rawas in their language at this time. However, linguists are currently translating the Bible into Rawas. Since there are no missions agencies presently targeting this people group, it is imperative that a detailed study be done to develop effective church planting strategies.
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 Rawas by showing them the love and compassion of Jesus. Although long-standing tradition seems to hinder evangelization, God's power is greater than any tradition. Perhaps those with medical skills and agricultural training will have the greatest opportunities to work among the Rawas.
- Ask God to create a hunger for Truth and an openness to Christianity within the hearts of the Rawas.
- Pray that God will raise up laborers who understand the Muslim culture and who can effectively take the Gospel to them.
- Pray that the Lord Jesus will begin revealing Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to bless the efforts of the linguists who are working to translate the Bible into Rawas.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will encourage and protect the small number of Rawas Christians.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Rawas bound.
- Pray that the Lord will call forth teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Rawas.
- Ask God to raise up strong local churches among the Rawas.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Rawas
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Rawas
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 16
- 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: 27,900 (17%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 136,000 (83%)
- 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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