The Bengkulu of Indonesia
The Bengkulu of Indonesia are a result of the union of multiple peoples making their residence in the precincts of what is now Bengkulu City. Located on the western coast of southern Sumatra, the Bengkulu are a mixture of Malay, Minangkabau, Acehenese, Bugis, Bantenese, and Negarigung Javanese. Some trace their ancestry to Sipai, India, from whence they came as English mercenary troops to help build Fort Marlborough in 1713.
Since they have characteristics that closely resemble those of Malays along the eastern Sumatra coast, they are properly referred to as Bengkulu Malay. Historically, the Bengkulu proudly identified themselves as orang Bangkahulu (Bengkuluese). This term testified to a great military victory in which they not only defended themselves against a superior military force of Acehenese invaders but also successfully expelled them from their coasts. Regardless of their origins, all of them speak the Malay language with a Minangkabau dialect.
What are their lives like?
The Bengkulu tend to be easygoing by nature. They exist on what nature provides, with little knowledge of or interest in modern technology and industry. Most Bengkulu fell trees or till the soil. They are sometimes called orang selengek (dried-fish people) because of their unique method of drying and preserving fish. For their own needs, but not for sale, they make items from bamboo, rattan, wood, roots, leaves, and parts of the coconut tree.
Since the time of Dutch rule, the Bengkulu have not recognized any social classes in their society. In addition, they do not build distinct villages as do other Malays. The pasar (governmental precinct) is the smallest unit of social identification. It is the place where a Bengkulu is born or reared. Those born in a specific pasar feel a strong bond and a desire to work together with others in the pasar.
Minangkabau influence can be seen in every aspect of Bengkulu life and culture: clothing (especially wedding apparel), dances, tales, farming tools, fishing devices, religious and communal terminology, food, and mobile lifestyle. Unlike the Minangkabau, however, Bengkulu inheritance is traced patrilineally (through the males). In marriage, they hold to an ideal of monogamy (one husband, one wife). After marriage, a Bengkulu couple usually lives with the bride's parents. Then, after the birth of the first child, they move to separate quarters.
What are their beliefs?
Before the introduction of Islam, the Bengkulu practiced animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits). Since that time, however, they have not practiced idolatry. They have only recognized a supernatural, mystical power that influences their lives and inhabits certain sites and objects. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity have never been introduced to the indigenous Bengkulu. However, some non-Islamic practices have been imported by Islamic teachers. These include burning incense, making ritual offerings, and serving a meal of baked chicken with yellow rice as a ritual food at important ceremonies.
The Bengkulu participate in all the standard Islamic celebrations. They also hold ceremonies to request rainfall, chase away evil spirits, and cleanse a village in which immorality has occurred. Sometimes, they slaughter goats at grave sites to express appreciation for their ancestors, make requests of them, or ask for protection.
What are their needs?
Economically, the Bengkulu are backwards and unprogressive. They need quality, practical training in both vocational and professional skills. Even more, they need to be motivated not only to accept change but also to become agents of change among their own people.
In the spiritual arena, there are no Christian resources available to the Bengkulu. In addition, Bengkulu City authorities refuse to give permission for the construction of Christian church buildings within the city limits. House churches are stoned, pastors are intimidated, and leaders are murdered. Intercession is the key to changing the spiritual climate of the area.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send missionaries who can witness to the Bengkulu in culturally relevant ways.
- Pray for a translation of the Bible and the Jesus film into their language.
- Ask Jesus to supernaturally reveal Himself as Lord to the Bengkulu of Indonesia.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Bengkulu towards the Gospel message.
- Ask God to save key leaders among the Bengkulu who will boldly proclaim Jesus as Lord.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Bengkulu bound for many generations.
- 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 Bengkulu church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Bengkulu
- Country: Indonesia
- Their language: Benkulan
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 20
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 13,800 (23%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 46,200 (77%)
- 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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