Prayer Profile
The Riau Malay of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The Riau Malay live in the Indonesian province of Riau, which is located on the eastern side of the island of Sumatra. The province includes the Riau Island Regency, which consists of 3,214 islands. The two most advanced islands in the regency are Batam and Bintan.

Indonesia is a Southeast Asian archipelago of over 13,000 islands stretching 3000 miles along the equator. It has more Muslims than any other country and the fourth largest population in the world. It also has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with over 600 distinct people groups.

The Riau Malay are, by far, the largest and most dominant ethnic group in the Riau province. Most of the Riau Malay see themselves as open, friendly, and accepting of newcomers. They feel that these characteristics have been an important part of their history, since for centuries they have lived in cordial proximity to the Buginese-Makassarese, Chinese, and Javanese.

What Are Their Lives Like
Nearly two-thirds of Riau's citizens work as farmers, harvesting products from the rubber, palm oil, and gambir trees. Large fisheries harvest and export shrimp, fish, and a variety of fish products.

As Indonesia continues to develop, industrial workers will gradually begin to outnumber both farmers and fishermen. In addition, many people will begin working in large hotels and resorts, in construction and maintenance, and in utility services.

Temperatures throughout the Riau province range from a maximum of 31 degrees Celsius to an average minimum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. The rainy season lasts from October to February with sporadic rainfall throughout the year. Rainfalls average 2,000 to 3,000 millimeters a year. The winter "monsoon" lasts from November through March.

Due to intermingling with the Minangkabau, Chinese, Javanese, and Buginese, there are a variety of family structures among the Riau peoples. For many Malay families, the mother is the dominant figure. In these cases, the husband is considered a superficial figure whose only role is to help produce children.

What Are Their Belief?
The Riau Malay are nearly 100% Muslim. The creed of the Islamic religion states that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." Followers of Islam believe they will be judged on their knowledge of the Koran (the sacred book of Islam), as well as what they do with their lives. The Riau Malay are devoutly religious people who pray five times daily, kneeling toward Mecca, Islam's holy city.

Besides the teachings of Islam and its heavy influence on the culture, the Riau Malay also have strong beliefs in superstition and spirits. These superstitions affect their lives to varying degrees.

Many Riau Malay often write verses of the Koran and hide them in charms that they wear. Dukuns (similar to what some would call witch-doctors) are often called upon to heal the sick or cast out evil spirits.

What Are Their Needs?
The Riau Malay are increasingly threatened by an influx of trans-migrants who are willing to work harder and sacrifice more than they. This is especially true of the Chinese, Javanese, and Minangkabau migrants, who increasingly dominate the work force in industry, shipping, and even farming. These fellow Indonesians are capable of running every aspect of the Riau Malay social and governmental life.

The Riau Malay are taught from childhood that Islam alone is the only true religion for their people and that the Gospel of the orang Nasrani (Christian people) has been corrupted. Riau Malay Islam is wedded to their customs and culture. They are taught to despise all other religions and oppose anyone who tries to introduce any "foreign" religious alternative. On the other hand, they are more interested, curious, and willing to listen than many other peoples in Indonesia who share a high level of emotional attachment to Islam and rejection of Christianity.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Indonesia to work among the Riau Malay.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Riau Malay.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Riau Malay through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Riau Malay believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Riau Malay bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Riau Malay church for the glory of His name!
  • Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Riau Malay who will boldly declare the Gospel.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Riau Malay
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Riau
  • Population: (1990) 1,864,700
    (1995) 2,014,100
    (2000) 2,168,200
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 99.9%
  • Christian: <1%
  • Church members: 220
  • 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: 5
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 886,100 (43%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 60,400 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 805,700 (40%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 1,148,000 (57%)
  • 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 5.7%
    Sudanese Indonesian 3.1%
  • Major religions: Muslim 43.7%
    New religionist 35%
    Christian 13%
  • Number of denominations: 113

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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