Prayer Profile
The Minangkabau of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Minangkabau are the fourth largest ethnic group in Indonesia. They live primarily in the tropical mountain regions of Sumatra, Indonesia's westernmost island. Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world, is populated by people of fifteen different language groups.

Minangkabau origins were heavily influenced by Hinduism and date back to around 200 AD. The name "Minangkabau" represents a high degree of wit and resourcefulness, since it literally means "winning" (minang) "water buffalo" (kabau). They are well known throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia for their spicy foods, cultural pride, and successful businesses.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Minangkabau culture is that their societies are matrilineal. This means that they recognize descent and inheritances through the female line. The Minangkabau are the largest people group in the world to continue this practice. The strength of their culture is that they have remained matrilineal while embracing Islam.

What are their lives like?
The majority of the Minangkabau live in Western Sumatra. They are renowned among scholars and throughout Indonesia for their prominence in business. In fact, they are one of the few ethnic groups that can compete successfully with the Chinese.

The Minangkabau who live in villages have become highly skilled in several home industries. Their businesses include weaving, blacksmithing, and carving. Those who live scattered throughout the rugged, fertile countryside work primarily as wet rice farmers.

Known as the world's largest matrilineal people, Minangkabau properties and family names are passed down through the women. Marriages are usually arranged by a representative of the family. Young married couples usually live with the wife's mother or another of the wife's relatives. The woman is expected to manage both a career and the home. Land is owned collectively and centers around the great-grandmother. Decisions regarding land usage are made by consensus with an elected male elder presiding. Many Minangkabau men leave home seeking wealth and respect. Perhaps this explains why divorce is a very common occurrence.

The Minangkabau possess a wide variety of cultural abilities. Worldwide attention has been given to their distinct styles of art, music, architecture, poetry, and literature. They also enjoy times of celebration, such as holidays, Islamic pilgrimages, weddings, circumcisions, and house dedications.

Their native language, Minangkabau, is distinct, yet related to the language of the Malay and similar to Indonesian.

What are their beliefs?
The Minangkabau are 99% Shafiite Muslims. They are among Indonesia's most devoted Muslims, with many holding important positions in leadership. Religious services are well attended. The five pillars of Islam are diligently practiced, and pigs and pork are detested. Although some folk religions are in existence, they are generally looked down upon.

It is very interesting that the mythology concerning their origin includes the story of a worldwide flood and three brothers who survived on a boat!

The Minangkabau take great pride in their ancestry, claiming to have descended from Alexander the Great. They have had an impact on nearly every aspect of Indonesian life, including the government, the arts, and various professional ventures. Unfortunately, these things have given them a false sense of security, and they appear to have no need for the Gospel. However, loss of old traditions and increased migration into the cities may provide inroads for the Gospel into this tightly knit group.

What are their needs?
There are currently eight missions agencies targeting the Minangkabau; however, little progress has been made among them. The New Testament, the Jesus film, and Christian radio and television broadcasts are available in their language. Yet, there are only about 1,000 known believers. The Islamic religion is very difficult to penetrate. Christian laborers who are sensitive to the Muslim culture are needed to live and work among these living in spiritual darkness.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Indonesia and share Christ with the Minangkabau.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Minangkabau Christians.
  • Pray that the Minangkabau believers will be credible witnesses among their own people.
  • Pray for the completion of Bible translation, publication, and distribution among the Minangkabau.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray for God to stir up a desire within the native Indonesian church to reach their Muslim neighbors with the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Minangkabau by the year 2000.

See also the following related group:
the Minangkabau of Malaysia

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Minangkabau
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Minangkabau
  • Population: (1990) 4,608,300
    (1995) 4,980,800
    (2000) 5,362,500
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 996
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 8
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,843,900 (37%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 150,400 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 1,693,500 (34%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 3,136,900 (63%)
  • 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 10.7%
    Sudanese 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

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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