The Northern Sakai of Malaysia
The Northern Sakai, more commonly called Temiar, inhabit the interior tropical mountainous regions of Perak and Kelantan states in Malaysia. They are an aboriginal people (called Orang Asli), which means that they were part of the original inhabitants.
Until the 1930's, the Malay raided Sakai communities for slaves; this fostered a relative shyness and mistrust of strangers. The Malaysian Aboriginal Peoples Act of 1954, revised in 1974, originally gave governmental protection during Communist counterattack, but now it merely allows local police to control who may and may not enter aboriginal villages. This legislation has reduced the contact that the Northern Sakai can have with Malaysian society.
The Northern Sakai speak a Mon-Khmer language, Temair, that has no written script. Adult males also speak Malay, and children attending government primary schools are increasingly more literate in Malay.
What are their lives like?
The Northern Sakai are semi-nomadic due to their method of cultivation. They have always lived by "slash and burn" farming, supplemented by hunting and fishing, regardless of technological development around them. Since the arable soil around the village is depleted after two years, the community must then move to another site. There are several main sources of cash for the Northern Sakai. They trade locally produced items, such as decorated mats, tobacco pouches, and grain storage bags. They also sell forest produce such as cane, fruit, and wild game to outsiders. Some earn income as laborers on tea estates.
Since the 1970's, many of the Northern Sakai have been living in relocation settlements that were built in response to the authorities' desire to leave the forested areas open for counterattack operations. Houses in the settlements are modern, rural Malay houses made of plank and arranged on streets.
Other Northern Sakai still live in (or are moving back to) their traditional houses situated in forest clearings along major rivers. These communal houses made of bamboo are raised off the ground on wooden stilts. They have thatch roofs and are generally rectangular. The livestock runs freely underneath the homes. Apart from their chickens, the Northern Sakai will not eat livestock that they have raised, since they see them as pets. Yet, they will sell them to others for meat.
Northern Sakai society has usually been highly unified in character. Within the village, they share their game from hunts, their catches of fish, as well as their money, clothing, and other items. Yet, at the same time, they are allowed a tremendous amount of freedom. Only half of all villagers stay within the same village throughout their lives.
There is no word for "to marry" in Temiar, because there is little restriction on couples living or sleeping together without being "married." Older people usually look for a way to make a union official through a public promise that the couple will stay together. The first few months of "marriage," the new couple lives with the wife's community, then they may move elsewhere and try to occupy their own compartment in a communal house.
What are their beliefs?
The Northern Sakai are known for their religion of psychotherapy, used even now in western countries. They invented "Senoi dream therapy" in which individuals communicate with their spirit guides through dreams. The dreamer or (one in a trance) symbolically merges his mind, body, social relations, and the world into an indescribable unity.
The main ceremony of Northern Sakai religious life consists of public performances by spirit mediums at night within the houses. These ceremonies involve choral singing, dances, and trances. It is said that the women's singing is among the finest native choral music in Southeast Asia.
What are their needs?
The Northern Sakai desperately need to be freed from the "spirits of the cosmos" that bind them into such a complicated way of approaching the world. They need to embrace and understand the unity of the cross.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Malaysia.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Northern Sakai.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Northern Sakai towards Christians so they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Northern Sakai through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will give the Northern Sakai believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Northern Sakai 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 Northern Sakai church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Northern Sakai
- Country: Malaysia
- Their language: Temiar (Seroq)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 5%
- Church members: 1,010
- 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: 5,100 (31%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 11,500 (69%)
- Country: Malaysia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 41
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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