The Sundanese of Indonesia
The Sundanese are one of the largest groups of people yet unreached for Christ. They live in the western portion of the Indonesian island, Java. This tropical island lies just northwest of Australia.
Although the Sundanese speak their own language, called Sunda (part of the Malayo-Polynesian family), many also speak Javanese. They are culturally similar to the Javanese, but set themselves apart by personality. They claim to be more open and informal than the Javanese.
Historically, the Sundanese culture has remained somewhat isolated. While the cultural influences of India were spreading across Southeast Asia in earlier times, they had little effect on the orang gunung (mountain people) of Java.
Islam was first brought to Java in the fifteenth century by Indian traders who were converted on their trade routes. Muslim influence soon spread from the ports to other areas of the island.
What are their lives like?
To be Sundanese is, ideally, to be a rice farmer. Unfortunately, many of the villagers do not own enough rice land to provide for their daily needs. Because of this, nearly all of the villagers engage in small trade, crafts, seasonal farming, or service occupations. Besides rice, other crops grown on dry land include corn, root crops, chili peppers, and tobacco. Coastal areas tend to have mixed economies of rice, fishing, and/or fish farming.
Sundanese villages contain between 1,000 and 7,000 people, and the houses lie clustered together. Homes are often built up on poles or stilts. The villages are separated by small agricultural fields.
Traditional values are still strong in the villages and represent a behavior code known as adat, (guidelines that were laid down by their ancestors). The purpose of adat is to maintain peace and unity inside the village, between people, and within the "cosmic whole," of which they are a part. Change is slowly coming to the villages, with new ideas being introduced to those attending work or schools in the cities. The power of adat tries to slow down these new influences. However, recent developments, such as television and improvement of countryside roads, are bringing changes that even adat cannot stop.
Though not much is known about the kinship system of the Sundanese, we do know that the line of descent is through both of the parents. There are also evidences that ancestor worship (worshipping the spirits of deceased ancestors) was practiced. While many people may be recognized as relatives, the nuclear family remains the primary unit. Homes are basically matrilocal, meaning that the married daughters' homes are located near the parents' house, if available land permits. The parents' home is usually inherited by the youngest daughter, who stays at home after she is married to care for her parents.
Social etiquette is taught by the mother; whereas, the father is responsible for the physical needs of the child. Perhaps this is the reason Sundanese children seem to have a spiritual connection with their mothers rather than with their fathers.
In the past, marriages were arranged by the parents. Today, however, young people make their own choices with parental approval. Wedding ceremonies consist of traditional rituals that represent a settled life founded by the rice goddess, Dewi Sri.
What are their beliefs?
Although the Sundanese have been practicing
Muslims for a long time, the true principles of Islam have only been taught since World War II. As a result, many of their pre-Islamic practices have been altered and carried over into their Islamic beliefs. For example, many of the spirits that they formerly worshipped have been incorporated into Islam by giving them Islamic names and meanings.
What are their needs?
While the Sundanese have been evangelized to some degree, very few have actually been converted. Some Christian broadcasts are available, but the Bible has not yet been fully translated into their native language.
- Pray against the spiritual prinicpalities and powers that have kept the Sundanese bound for many generations.
- Ask the Lord to raise up people who understand the Muslim culture and who can effectively share Christ with the Sundanese.
- Pray that God will send Christian teachers to influence Sundanese children with the Gospel.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few Sundanese Christians.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into the Sunda language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Sundanese 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 a strong local church among the Sundanese by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Sundanese
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Sunda
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 20,954
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 13
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 11,336,000 (54%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 9,617,800 (45%)
- Country: Indonesia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 113
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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