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The Manggarai of Indonesia

[IMAGE] Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and continues to grow rapidly. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with 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 principal link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The 546,000 Manggarai are located in the western portion of Flores Island in the province of Nusa Tenggara. They are close neighbors to the Bima and the Timorese. Their language, which is also called Manggarai, is a member of the Austronesian language family and has 47 sub-dialects. Little is known concerning the specific lifestyle and culture of the Manggarai; however, it is reasonably assumed that they are fairly typical of the other ethnic groups living in Nusa Tenggara.

What are their lives like?
The island of Flores is extremely mountainous, with peaks that rise more than 7,000 feet and a number of active volcanoes. The interior of the island is heavily forested, and the few rivers that traverse the island are not navigable. The climate is tropical, with little daily variation in temperature. There is, however, a marked division between wet and dry seasons.

The principal agricultural products cultivated are corn, rice, coconuts, cinnamon, coffee, tobacco, cotton, and wax. Fruits and vegetables are grown in the gardens around the villages. Livestock and poultry are also raised, and there is some exploitation of mineral deposits. Large quantities of mother-of-pearl are obtained from the fisheries of the Flores Sea. Fishing appears to be relatively unimportant, although the people do have fish ponds from which they extract salt during the dry season.

A Manggarai village is often composed of small individual settlements. In the mountains, the people live on swiddens (land that has been cleared by "slash and burn" agriculture) for part of the year. After harvesting the crops, however, they return to their home village. Each village usually has its own mosque. The head of the mosque is responsible for all ceremonies, religious anniversaries, and the rites of the agricultural cycle.

Manggarai descent is traced through both the males and females, and the circle of kinship is divided into various sub-groups. The center, however, is the nuclear family, composed of a man, woman, and their children. If a Manggarai man wishes to marry, he sends an eloquent woman to the house of the prospective bride. Acting as his representative, she makes the marriage proposal for him in very descriptive language. A bride-price is then paid, dependent on the social status of the woman. After marriage, the young couple immediately establishes their own household.

What are their beliefs?
Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia today and is practiced by a majority of the population. Before the fourteenth century, Hinduism was widespread in the area but is now practiced by only a small number of people. About 14% of the population is Christian, primarily Protestant; and many Chinese follow Buddhist-Taoist teachings. Animistic religions (belief that non-human objects have spirits) are still followed by tribes in remote areas.

The Manggarai are 50% Sunni Muslims and 46% animists. As a whole, the island of Flores is 80% Catholic, but many of the people have mixed their faith with animistic practices. However, in the past, the western part of the neighboring island of Timor has experienced an outpouring of God's blessing.

What are their needs?
The Manggarai have no Christian resources available in their own language, and there is only one missions agency currently working among them. A great need exists for the Bible and Christian literature to be translated into their native language. Above all, sustained intercession is necessary if the Manggarai are to come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to send missionaries who will invest their lives in the Manggarai of Indonesia.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is targeting the Manggarai.
  • Pray that the Bible and the Jesus film will soon be translated into the Manggarai language.
  • Ask the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself to the Manggarai through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Manggarai believers as they share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Manggarai 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 Manggarai church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Manggarai
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Manggarai
  • Population: (1990) 505,500
    (1995) 546,000
    (2000) 587,700
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 50%
    Ethnic religionist 46%
  • Christian: 4%
  • Church members: 21,840
  • 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: 158,300 (29%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 54,600 (10%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 103,700 (19%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 387,700 (71%)
  • 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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