The Bunak of Indonesia
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and continues to experience rapid growth. It also has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with more than 300 distinct people groups, many of whom are Muslim. Located in southeastern Asia, the many islands of Indonesia command vital sea routes between Australia, Europe, and the Asian mainland. These islands are the principal link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The 69,700 Bunak of Indonesia are located in the central interior of Timor Island in the province of Nusa Tenggara. They are one of the major people groups on the island. Their language, which is also called Bunak, is not closely related to any other language.
There is little information concerning the specific lifestyle and culture of the Bunak; however, it is assumed that they are very similar to other aboriginal groups living in Timor.
What are their lives like?
The island of Timor is about 280 miles long and up to 65 miles wide. At 9,679 feet, Mount Ramelau is the highest point. Almost all of the island's precipitation falls during the monsoon season, which occurs from December to March. The soil is generally poor, and natural vegetation is sparse. There are, however, valuable forests of eucalyptus, sandalwood, rosewood, bamboo, and teak.
The Portuguese settled on Timor in the early 1500's, and Dutch traders first landed on the island in 1613. The Portuguese and Dutch competed for influence until a series of agreements established boundaries between their holdings. Dutch Timor, centered in the west, became part of the Republic of Indonesia in 1950. Portuguese Timor, centered in the east, was forcibly annexed by Indonesia in late 1975.
The economy of Timor is dominated by agriculture. Cultivation is by traditional methods, and the chief products are maize, rice, coffee, fruit, and copra (dried coconut meat yielding oil). The coastal inhabitants of Timor are largely of Indonesian-Malay descent. They have driven the predominantly Melanesian aborigines (such as the Bunak) to the mountains.
Bunak villages often consist of individual settlements. In the mountains, the people live on swiddens (land that has been cleared by "slash and burn" agriculture) for part of the year. After harvesting the crops, however, they return to their home villages. Each village has a sacred house, with a custodian priest and a surrounding taboo area. Because of former coastal warfare, villages and isolated houses are surrounded by stockades.
Bunak descent is traced through both the males and females, and the circle of kinship is divided into various sub-groups. The center, however, is the nuclear family, composed of a man, woman, and their children.
What are their beliefs?
Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia today and is practiced by much of the population. Before the 1300's, Hinduism was widespread in the area but is now practiced by only a small number of people. About 13% of the country's population is Christian, primarily Protestant; and many of the Chinese follow Buddhist-Taoist teachings. Animistic religions (belief that non-human objects have spirits) are still followed by tribes in remote areas, such as the Bunak. Headhunting has only recently been suppressed. The Bunak also practice ancestor worship (praying to deceased relatives for guidance, blessing, and protection).
What are their needs?
There are claims that more than 100,000 people may have been killed by the Indonesian army during the annexation of Timor. Political tensions in the region led to a massacre of protesters by Indonesian soldiers in 1991. Many of the islanders need to experience emotional healing.
The Bunak have no Christian resources available in their own language. However, there are two missions agencies currently working among them. The Bible and other materials need to be translated into their language, and the missions work must be extended. Only then can the Bunak find true peace in Jesus.
- Ask the Lord to send loving Christians to minister the peace of Jesus to the Bunak.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Bunak.
- Pray that the Bible and the Jesus film will soon be available in the Bunak language.
- Ask God to begin revealing Himself to the Bunak through dreams and visions.
- Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Bunak believers as they share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Bunak 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 Bunak church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Bunak
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Bunak
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 5%
- Church members: 3,484
- 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: 19,500 (28%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 50,200 (72%)
- 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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