The Dampelas of Indonesia
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world and continues to grow rapidly. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with more than 300 distinct people groups, many of whom are Muslim. The history of the region is one of the rise and fall of petty kingdoms, and their occasional alliance into larger entities for purposes of defense and conquest.
The Dampelas are part of a larger group of people known as the Tomini, which includes several other sub-groups. Numbering 13,700, they are located on the northwestern peninsular area of the island of Sulawesi.
Their close neighbors are the Gorontalo, the Bulo, and the Western Toradja. Although linguists formerly thought that all Tomini languages were mutually intelligible and that the different names merely referred to dialects, recent research has asserted that each group speaks its own separate language.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Traditionally, the Tomini peoples were governed by a sultan. Each tribe was headed by its own hereditary chief and his assistants, who formed an advisory council for assisting the sultan. Four classes of people were evident: the royal lineage, the nobility, the commoners, and the former slaves. After their independence, some of the former rulers and their families found positions in the new bureaucracy; others became private businessmen.
In the late 1950's, separatist movements against the Indonesian government were led by youth groups throughout the island of Sulawesi. In the Tomini region, this reached a climax with the Permesta Rebellion of the 1960's, and for several years the area produced no marketable products. Since that time, the government has made an effort to integrate the area into a national and international economic system. Cloves (spices) were successfully introduced in large plantations, and national and international lumber firms were also established.
The coastal Dampelas are very much engaged in commercial clove production, as well as in copra (dried coconut meat yielding coconut oil) and palm plantations. A number earn their living as merchants, and others are lumberjacks or sailors.
The highland Dampelas cultivate dry rice, maize, and sago (a palm grown for its starch, which is used in foods and as textile stiffening). They also gather rattan (palms with stems that are used for wickerwork) for trade along the coast.
Marriages follow a Muslim pattern and are arranged by mediators, who also negotiate the bride price. This amount depends on the girl's social status. Cross cousin marriages are preferred, though parallel cousin marriages sometimes occur. While polygyny (the practice of a man having more than one wife) is permitted, it is rarely practiced. Once married, a couple usually lives with their family until the birth of their first child.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia today and is practiced by a large segment of the Dampelas population. Hinduism, widespread in the islands before the fourteenth century, is now practiced by only a small number of people. About 13% of the population is Christian, primarily Protestant; and many Chinese follow Buddhist-Taoist teachings. Animistic religions (religions that believe that non-human objects have spirits) are followed by tribes in remote areas.
The Dampelas are mainly Sunni Muslim, though there are still small groups of animists in the inland mountain areas. The animist population is known as suku terasing, meaning "foreign tribes," and they have been the object of the Indonesian government acculturation programs, including relocation.
What Are Their Needs?
Few Christian resources exist to reach the Dampelas; consequently, the number of known believers among this tribe is small. Only prayer can break down the spiritual strongholds that have kept these people bound for so many years.
- Ask the Lord to call full-time missionaries who will go to Indonesia to work among the Dampelas.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Dampelas bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
- Pray for the spiritual eyes of the Dampelas to be opened to the truth of the Gospel.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Dampelas.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders in the Dampelas tribe who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Pray that the Dampelas will hunger to know Jesus and that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to establish strong local churches among the Dampelas by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Dampelas
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Dampelasa
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 8
- 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: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,600 (12%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 12,100 (88%)
- Country: Indonesia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 113
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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