The Gorontalese of Indonesia
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and continues to grow rapidly. It has one of the most ethnically diverse cultures in the world, with more than 300 distinct people groups. The nearly one million Gorontalese are one of three major people groups of northern Sulawesi. Formerly mountain dwellers, the Gorontalese now inhabit scattered villages along the plain or coastal strip of the Sulawesi's northern peninsula, particularly in the city district of Gorontalo.
Sulawesi is located directly south of the Philippines. This large crab-shaped island is generally mountainous and marked by volcanic cones. Tropical rain forests are also characteristic of the area. The history of this region is one of the rising and falling of petty kingdoms. The kingdoms would occasionally ban together in times of war to form a larger and more powerful army. It seems likely that the region was originally inhabited by the Toradja peoples.
What are their lives like?
To the east of the Gorontalese are the neighboring Minahasans of Minado Island. The Minahasans have been strongly influenced by Dutch colonization and Christian education. As a result, they have been converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, however, the Gorontalese have remained devout Muslims and are largely unevangelized. There seem to be many barriers of prejudice between the two groups. There are no native Gorontalese churches, and local Christians are frightened to reach out to the Muslim Gorontalese for fear of persecution.
Rice, maize, and the fruit of sago palms are important food sources to the Gorontalese. Yams and millet are secondary crops, and coconut is grown commercially. Nets, traps, and harpoons are used for fishing in the lakes. Rattan (a type of palm) and damar (trees grown for timber) are gathered for sale. Cattle are commonly used for pulling heavy loads and horses for riding.
Indonesia has more than eight million farmers who are without land. To aid in this situation, the government offers free land, housing, and other assistance to those who are willing to move from overcrowded areas to the less developed islands.
Gorontalese society is patrilineal, which means that lines of descent are traced through the males. Marriages follow the Muslim pattern and are arranged by a "go between." This middleman has the responsibility of negotiating the bride price for the groom, an amount that is determined by the girl's social status. Although cross cousin marriages are preferred, parallel cousin marriages do sometimes occur. Once married, a couple usually lives with the bride's mother until the first child is born. Then the couple leaves to establish their own household. Each spouse owns property separately, and only the land obtained after marriage becomes mutual property.
What are their beliefs?
Islam, the dominant religion in Indonesia today, is practiced by nearly 85% of the country's population. Hinduism is practiced by only 2% of the population, and about 8% are Protestant Christians. Many also follow Buddhist-Taoist teachings. Animism, the belief that non-living objects have spirits, is also practiced by tribes in remote areas.
Virtually all the Gorontalese are Sunni Muslims, although many of their ritual ceremonies and practices are actually a mixture of several religions.
What are their needs?
Indonesian is spoken in the urban areas and taught in the schools. However, most of the Gorontalese—especially the women—speak only Gorontalo, for which there is no written script. Efforts are currently being made to complete a Bible translation as well as audio materials in the Gorontalo language. Prayer for the completion of these materials is needed.
Although Indonesians have religious freedom, the large Muslim population has strong political influence. Prayer is essential for seeing groups such as the Gorontalese effectively reached with the Gospel.
- Pray that God will raise up loving Indonesian Christians to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.
- Pray that the Jesus film and Christian radio broadcasts will soon be made available to the Gorontalese.
- Ask God to use the Gorontalese believers to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
- Pray that God will raise up linguists to develop a written script for and translate the Bible into Gorontalo.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Gorontalese towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Gorontalese bound.
- Pray that God will begin to reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Gorontalese by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Gorontalese
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Gorontalo
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1.4%
- Church members: 13,767
- 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: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 289,100 (30%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 694,300 (70%)
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 113
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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