The Lowland Semang
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world and continues to grow rapidly. It is an archipelago of five large islands and over 13,000 smaller islands, stretching 3,000 miles along the equator. Located in southeastern Asia, the islands command vital sea routes between Australia, Europe, and the Asian mainland. These islands are the link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The Lowland Semang are the descendants of one of Indonesia's original ethnic groups who lived on the Malaysian peninsula. The word semang is probably derived from the Khmer term meaning "debt slave." As the Malaysian population increased in the 1800's, the Malays made slave raids on all the indigenous peoples, including the Semang. Relations between the Malays and Semang continue to be strained. The Lowland Semang eventually migrated to Bintan Island, southeast of Singapore. Today, they inhabit the lowlands and forested foothills. They speak Semang, a Mon-Khmer language.
What are their lives like?
Until recently, most of the Lowland Semang lived in the forests as nomads. They had no established villages, but stayed in temporary camps consisting of about 20 lean-to shelters. Although the Semang still possess some aspects of nomadic life, they are beginning to settle in more permanent dwellings. The small Malay-style bamboo and thatch houses are the most popular type of structure.
The Lowland Semang, not wanting to be restricted to one kind of economic opportunity, have a variety of occupations. Some collect forest products for trade, while others hold wage-paying jobs. Many have become farmers, using the "slash and burn" method of cultivation. Rice, cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes are their main crops. They also consume a number of forest products, such as wild sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots, nuts, and honey. They are well known for their "blowpipe hunting" of monkeys and birds.
All foods raised or gathered from the forests are freely shared among the extended family members. Many of the forest products can be taken to the market for sell or trade. Resins, wax, thatch, plant medicines, and rattan are often exchanged for iron tools and other necessary items. Although the Semang are not dependent on trade for survival, the tools and luxury items they obtain make their lives easier.
The nuclear family is the largest committed group among the Lowland Semang. Although one or two extended families may live together for a time, the families may go their separate ways quite easily. Young couples generally choose their own spouses with little input from their parents. The marriage "ceremony" may consist simply of the couple setting up a household together. Divorce is acceptable among the Semang, but it occurs most often among couples who have no children.
In Semang society, no adult has authority over any other adult, and there are no outward forms of social control. Since they abhor violence, disputes among them are rare.
What are their beliefs?
While most of the Semang tribes are animistic (believe that non-human objects have spirits) in their religious practices, the Lowland Semang are primarily Sunni Muslims. Nevertheless, their practices preserve remnants of their pre-Islamic animist religion. Many important events in life, such as birth, illness, and death, as well as agricultural rituals, are especially rich in animistic symbolism. The history of their conversion to Islam is not clear; however, it is assumed that they were heavily influenced by the Islamic Malaysian and Indonesian cultures that surround them.
What are their needs?
Most of the Lowland Semang have not had the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel. The Bible has not been translated into Semang, and there are no missions agencies currently working among them. There are only a small number of Lowland Semang Christians. These believers desperately need Christian materials—especially the Bible—in their own language. Christian laborers and increased intercession are also necessary to see this people group effectively reached with the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Lowland Semang.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Indonesia through worship and intercession.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Lowland Semang through dreams and visions.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other Christian materials into the Semang language.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Lowland Semang Christians.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Semang language.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Lowland Semang bound.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Lowland Semang church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Lowland Semang
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Semang
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 2%
- Church members: 220
- 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: 2,000 (19%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 8,900 (81%)
- Country: Indonesia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 113
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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