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The Tukangbesi Utara of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Tukangbesi of Indonesia are located on two small islands that lie to the southeast of Sulawesi. The term "Utara" means south and refers to those living on the southern island. They are close neighbors to the Wolio (also known as the Butonese) and the Muna. Their language, which they call Tukan-Besi, is a member of the Austronesian language family and is closely related to Cia-Cia.

Around the fifteenth century, migrants from Johore established the kingdom of Buton. This kingdom included the Tukangbesi Islands and was ruled by a raja, or king. In 1540, the sixth raja converted to Islam, making him the first sultan and his kingdom, a sultanate.

The sultanate of Buton remained independent until the death of the last sultan in 1960. At that time, the sultanate was dissolved and finally integrated with the nation of Indonesia. This union, however, resulted in a loss of tradition on the islands.

What are their lives like?
The Tukangbesi 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 Tukangbesi are also fishermen or boat-builders. However, since economic opportunities are lacking, many sail away to faraway islands to earn money in commercial enterprise or labor. Some of these never return. Today, people of Tukangbesi origin live throughout much of 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.

Tukangbesi 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 only a few windows. Most villages have markets where woven silk, cotton, and other fabrics are traded. Many villages also have small stores, and peddlers may be seen selling various items.

Most marriages today are monogamous (one husband, one wife). 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. Infants are reared by both father and mother alike.

Education is highly valued for both boys and girls in Tukangbesi 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 Tukangbesi culture. Knowledge of foreign languages is also encouraged, and many Tukangbesi are improving their positions in society.

What are their beliefs?
Islam was first accepted by the nobility of the area. They shared their religious knowledge with the commoners, but they did so in a limited way, keeping the villagers dependent upon them. Today, 95% of the Tukangbesi Utara are Muslims, but the belief in various supernatural beings plays 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. Tukangbesi 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 Tukangbesi. Sufis believe that meditation may result in a vision of Allah, or special inner knowledge directly from Allah. As a result of lingering Hindu beliefs, many also believe in reincarnation (continuous cycle of death and rebirth).

What are their needs?
The Tukangbesi have no Christian resources available to them in their own language. Also, no missions agencies are currently working among them. Intercession and evangelism are still needed in order to penetrate this group with the good news of Jesus.

Prayer Points

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



  • People name: Tukangbesi Utara
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Tukangbesi Utara
  • Population: (1995) 120,000
  • Largest religion: Muslim
  • Christian: 0%
  • Church members: 0
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • 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

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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