Prayer Profile
The Javanese of Indonesia
A cluster of 7 Javanese groups in Indonesia.

[IMAGE] The various people groups known as the Javanese live mainly on the Indonesian island of Java. Java has a very diverse geography and climate, from limestone ridges and lowlands in the north, to a mountain range along the south edge of the island. Java also has 112 volcanoes. The humid condition combined with the lava ash makes farming very productive there. It is said of Java that "if you put a stick into the ground it will grow".

The Javanese have a rich written history, dating back to 750 A.D. The country is filled with huge temples and tombs. These architectural feats were influenced by outside cultures and nations that once lived in Java. The Dutch formerly ruled Java and controlled much of its commerce. The English later came to Java and offered a new system of trade. The Javanese liked the hierarchical system the English set up, and liberated themselves from the Dutch. After many internal rulers had governed Java, the Japanese took over. They ruled until 1945, when Java once again gained its independence. In 1975, Indonesia was born and Java voluntarily became part of that country.

What are their lives like?
A majority of the Javanese live in small villages and towns situated closely together. Few people own land, and those who do have only small fragmented plots. Most of them are farmers, and wet-rice is their chief cash crop. The government takes one-fifth of their produce and the rest is sold to merchants.

The Javanese (or Jawa) have many subgroups. Two of these, the Pasisir Lor and the Pasisir Kulon, live on the northern coast of Java and do most of their trading with the English. Most internal trade is done by the women. They are the retailers, servicing four or five villages throughout rural Java.

The Javanese culture is highly stratified. The upper class consists of the nobles. They have different titles that indicate their hereditary rank and function in relation to the ruler. The middle class is made up of the educated. They often hold positions as administrative officials. They also marry with the nobles to achieve a higher social rank. The lowest level consists of the wong cilik, or "little people." These are masses of peasants who live in the villages and larger cities. Fortunately, the hierarchy allows people to move through the classes by education, marriage, or entering government service.

Many Javanese are bilingual, speaking Bahasa Indonesian away from home and Javanese among themselves. People in some villages speak only a Javanese dialect. For example, the Jawa speak Jawara, and the Banumasan Jawa speak Banumasanóboth Javanese dialects.

Within the Javanese language there are approximately nine different styles of speaking. The styles range from the least refined to the extremely polite form. The levels vary according to status, rank, age, and level of intimacy between the speakers. Mockery and insults are used only by the lower class and the extreme upper class.

In the Javanese culture, individuals are free to choose their own spouses. Sometimes marriages are arranged by parents, but this is rare. Divorce is common and is permitted by Muslim law.

Javanese children are completely indulged until the age of two or four. Then the discipline becomes very strict, almost cruel. The most common methods of discipline include verbal warnings, corporal punishment, comparison to siblings and other children, and threats of open punishment. The latter encourages children to be fearful and shy around strangers. Mothers are the primary caregivers, while the fathers are more distant.

What are their beliefs?
Virtually all Javanese claim to be Muslims. In reality, however, they practice a mixture of Islam, Hindu-Buddhism, and spiritism. Each class and village mixes the three religious forms a little differently in order to make their religion better adapted to their place in the world. The upper class performs Islamic rituals more rigorously than the lower classes. They are taught to seek after such qualities as poise and effortless self-control so that they might obtain inner tranquillity.

The Cirebon (one subgroup of the Javanese) are almost exclusively Islamic. They live along the northern coast of Java, which is where Islam originated on Java. Many work as merchants, and such a large majority of these merchants are Muslim, that Islam is often associated with commerce.

All of the Javanese religions stress inner tranquillity. This is the core of their distinct version of religion. Slametan is their most important ritual. It is a communal feast that is believed to bring well-being to the hosting family. They also perform a drama that recounts the struggle of two related families for the rule over the kingdom of Ngastina. This drama is based on an Indian epic poem that makes many philosophical judgments on how life should be lived.

What are their needs?
Java is currently suffering from overpopulation. As a result, the Indonesian government often forces migration into other parts of the country. Since the Javanese are the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, they are the main group being shipped from their homeland. They also are being heavily taxed. Although they are educated to some degree, there are few Christian resources available to them.

Prayer Points

  • Pray against the spirits of Islam, Hindu-Buddhism, and spiritism that are over the Javanese.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up missionaries to share Christ with the Javanese.
  • Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask God to grant favor and to the missions agencies that are targeting the Javanese.
  • Pray for the Javanese that are being forced to leave their homeland.
  • Ask God to reveal Himself to the Javanese through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will open the hearts of Indonesia's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Javanese by the year 2000.
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