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The Saparua of Indonesia

[IMAGE] Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world and continues to grow rapidly. It has more than 300 distinct people groups, many of whom are Muslim. Located in southeastern Asia, the many islands of Indonesia command vital sea routes between Australia, Europe, and the Asian mainland. These islands are the link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The 11,200 Saparua are located on a tiny island in the Moluccas, or Spice Islands. This chain of islands is located in the eastern portion of Indonesia and includes most of the islands between Sulawesi and New Guinea and between Timor and the Philippines. The population is mostly of Malayan origin.

The northern islands of the chain are Halmahera (the largest of the Moluccas), Morotai, Ternate, Tidore, Makian, Bacan (Batjan), Obi, and Sula. The central and southern islands include Buru, Ceram, Ambon, the Banda Islands, Kai (Ewab), Aru, Tanimbar, Babar, Kisar, and Wetar.

What are their lives like?
The cloves of the northern Moluccas and the nutmeg of the central islands were traded in Asia long before Europeans heard of the Spice Islands. With the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511, many decades of conflict began. The struggles for control of the region caused great loss of life during this period. The victorious Dutch earned large profits, but by the end of the eighteenth century, the spice trade had greatly diminished. As a result, the Moluccas were no longer so desirable.

Indonesian culture is an inter-mixture of many diverse civilizations. The Hinduism and Buddhism of India exerted a profound influence on Indonesian life and left a strong imprint on the architecture and sculpture of the country. Arabic influence in Indonesia has been promoted since the thirteenth century, mainly through the teachings of Islam. The islands have also been affected by Southeast Asian and Polynesian cultures, as well as by the influx of Chinese and Dutch peoples.

The climate of Indonesia is tropical, with two monsoon seasons: a wet season from November to March and a dry season from June to October. The weather is more moderate between monsoons. The rich volcanic soil of Indonesia is ideal for growing crops; forests flourish and cover about two-thirds of the land.

Earthquakes are frequent in the Moluccas, and most of the islands are mountainous. Several islands, especially Ternate and Banda, have active volcanoes. The Tanimbar and Aru island groups, however, are low and swampy. The climate of the Moluccas is tropical, with rainfall varying from 80 to 150 inches annually in various locations. In some areas, the evergreen rain forest formerly covering most of the islands has been leveled, and the land is now cultivated. There are also patches of open savanna, and the coasts are often fringed with mangrove swamps.

Food is obtained by hunting, fishing, and collecting sago (a type of palm) starch. Coconuts are widely grown, and the main exports are copra (dried coconut meat which yields oil), forest products, spices, and fish.

What are their beliefs?
Christianity and Islam are the dominant faiths in the coastal areas, but in the interior most people are animists (believing that non-human objects have spirits). Islam, in various forms, is the dominant faith of the country. In fact, Indonesia is the largest Islamic community in the world. However, freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Indonesian constitution. Although the Saparua are 95% Muslim, 4% are Christian.

What are their needs?
The Saparua do not have any Christian resources available in their own language, and no missions agencies are currently working among them. Both a translation of the Bible and the Jesus film in their own language are needed. Fervent intercession and further missions work will need to be undertaken to strengthen the believers and see the people on this remote island reached with the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to the Saparua of Indonesia.
  • Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelistic literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Saparua.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Word of God into the Saparua language.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Saparua through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Saparua believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Saparua bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Saparua church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Saparua
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Saparua
  • Population: (1990) 10,300
    (1995) 11,200
    (2000) 12,000
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 95%
    Nonreligious 1%
  • Christian: 4%
  • Church members: 450
  • 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: 2,900 (26%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,100 (10%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 1,800 (16%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 8,300 (74%)
  • 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%
    Sundanese 10.6%
    Madurese 10.7%
    Sundanese 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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