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Prayer Profile
The Wolio of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Wolio (also known as the Butonese) are the former inhabitants of an area known as the sultanate of Buton. It included the islands of Buton, Muna, Kabaena, and smaller islands in Indonesia's Southeast Sulawesi province. The Wolio speak a language, also called Wolio, that is part of the Austronesian language family.

Around the fifteenth century, migrants from Johore established the kingdom of Buton, with a raja, or king, as their ruler. The sixth raja converted to Islam in 1540, making him the first sultan and his kingdom, a sultanate. A type of "caste" (social class) system was established, with the highest places reserved for nobility.

The sultanate of Buton remained independent until the death of the last sultan in 1960. At that time, the sultanate was dissolved and the islands were integrated with Indonesia. The new government desired to obliterate all remnants of the aristocratic past. Festive celebrations were changed, and high-ranking Wolio could no longer proudly wear their uniforms.

What are their lives like?
The Wolio base much of their livelihood on agriculture, since the soil of the islands is very fertile. The main crops grown are corn, dry rice, and cassava. Many Wolio are also fishermen or boat-builders. However, since economic opportunities are lacking, many sail to faraway islands to earn money in commercial enterprises or manual labor jobs. Some of these never return. Today, people of Wolio origin live throughout eastern Indonesia.

Seafaring is considered men's work, along with ironworking, boat building, brass and silver manufacturing, and most of working the fields. Pottery, weaving, preparing meals, doing domestic work, and managing the family's money are the women's primary jobs.

Wolio houses are raised above ground and built of sturdy planks. The roofs are made of small planks, palm leaves, or iron, and the houses have very few windows. Most villages have markets where woven silk, cotton, and other fabrics are traded. Many villages also have small stores, and peddlers with carts may be seen selling various items.

Today, most Wolio marriages are monogamous (having one spouse). Although parents are involved in the arrangement of the marriages, the young people are free to choose their partners. After marriage, the couple lives with the bride's family until the husband can build his own house. Both father and mother participate in rearing the children.

Education is highly valued for both boys and girls in Wolio society. This emphasis on education has caused their literary art to flourish, resulting in the writing of books and long poems, which have become a part of Wolio culture. Knowledge of foreign languages is also encouraged. Through these and other skills, many Wolio are improving their positions in society.

What are their beliefs?
Islam was first accepted by the Wolio nobility. They shared their religious knowledge with the commoners, but they did so in a limited way that kept the villagers dependent upon them. Today, 99.9% of the Wolio are Muslim, but the belief in various supernatural beings continues to play a role in village life. Such beings include guardian spirits, harvest spirits, evil spirits who cause illness, and helpful spirits who give guidance. Ancestor spirits are thought to help their living relatives or cause illnesses, depending on the behavior of the relatives. The Wolio also consider nature to be the material form of God's creation and, therefore, glorify it.

Sufism (a mystic form of Islam) also exists among the Wolio. Sufis believe that meditation may result in the discovery of special inner knowledge direct from Allah. Reincarnation is also believed in by many, as a result of lingering Hindu beliefs.

What are their needs?
The Wolio are a people with no Christian resources available to them and no missions agency currently working among them. Since most of these islanders have never heard the Gospel, intercession, prayer, and evangelism are needed to bring them to the knowledge of a Savior.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Indonesia and share Christ with the Wolio.
  • Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Wolio.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Wolio towards the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Wolio through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Wolio who will boldly proclaim the Gospel.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Wolio bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Wolio.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Wolio
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Wolio (Lajolo)
  • Population: (1990) 29,800
    (1995) 32,200
    (2000) 34,600
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 99.9%
  • Christian: <1%
  • Church members: 3
  • 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: 3,500 (11%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,000 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 2,500 (8%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 28,700 (89%)
  • 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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