Prayer Profile
The Ternatese of Indonesia

[IMAGE] The large island of Halmahera lies in the northern Molucca (or Spice) Islands, midway between northern Sulawesi and the western tip of Irian Jaya. Together with its outlying islands (including Ternate), it covers approximately 6,500 square miles. The term "Ternatese" refers to those people who reside on the island of Ternate, as well as to those who have emigrated elsewhere but still identify themselves as Ternatese. Over the years, there has developed a history of physical and cultural assimilation in the area due to foreign competition for the Moluccan spice trade.

For centuries, the Ternate sultanate was an important influence throughout the Moluccas. By the end of the 1600's, the sultanate extended from Sulawesi in the west to Ceram in the east. Rivalries with the sultanate of Tidor (a nearby island) resulted in frequent warfare and territorial conquest on the island of Halmahera. Not until 1814 was peace between the two sultanates established.

What Are Their Lives Like
The Ternatese live mainly by subsistence agriculture, supplemented by fishing and some cash crops. Sago (a type of palm), bananas, and cassava are staple crops; rice, maize, vegetables, and sugarcane are supplementary crops. Coconut, cacao, coffee, and nutmeg are important cash crops. Interestingly, there are no large rice fields, and rice is consumed only on special occasions. The Ternatese also keep some chickens, ducks, and goats.

Ternatese men do the hard labor in the gardens, such as cutting down trees. They also do some fishing and build and maintain the houses. The women do the daily work in the gardens, cook the meals, and care for the children. They also try to earn money by selling garden produce and fish.

Ternatese villages are located primarily along the coast near the mouths of rivers. Houses are generally arranged along the streets parallel to the coast line. Larger villages have a square, which contains the district head's office and home, the school, and the mosque. In the town of Ternate, structures exhibit the style of the various settlers, such as the Chinese, Arab, and Dutch. In the rural areas, houses are usually made of thatch and are built directly on the ground, though temporary field houses may be raised.

Traditionally, Ternatese political structure consisted of a number of districts, each composed of several villages. Each district had a representative of the Sultan. Today, the system is similarly organized, with the jurisdiction of the regional governor of Ternate over the same area as the former sultanate.

Only by marriage can a Ternatese become a full member of the community; thus, marriages generally occur at an early age. In upper class families, marriages are frequently arranged by parents to protect and enhance the status and honor of the family and to avoid misalliances. As a result, young people are often forced into marriages. Newlyweds frequently live with the parents (usually the girl's) for a while. Eventually, they build a house located close to the home of either the man or woman's parents. When children are born, not only the parents but also the grandparents and other family members play a large role in raising them. When boys are ready to marry, they are not expected to do any heavy, physical labor to prove their diligence. Only after marriage does the seriousness of life begin for boys.

What Are Their Belief?
The Ternatese are Sunni Muslims and follow the Muslim calendar of events and rituals. At the same time, they retain many traditional customs that are not compatible with orthodox Islam. One example is their practice of visiting shrines to pray for recovery from illness and for other purposes. There also exists a widespread belief in guardian spirits, who are venerated and petitioned for help.

What Are Their Needs?
The Ternatese are virtually all Muslims, and most of them have not yet heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. No Christian resources are currently available to aid in evangelizing them. Bible translators, pioneer missionaries, and fervent intercessors are needed to see them won to Christ.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to call missionaries who are willing to invest their lives in the Ternatese.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom, favor, and unity to the missions agencies that are targeting the Ternatese.
  • Pray that Christian radio broadcasts and the Jesus film will soon be made available to the Ternatese.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Ternate language.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Ternatese through dreams and visions.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Ternatese bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Ternatese by the year 2000.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Ternatese
  • Country: Indonesia
  • Their language: Ternate
  • Population: (1990) 49,800
    (1995) 53,900
    (2000) 58,000
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 99.9%
  • Christian: <1%
  • Church members: 5
  • 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: 4
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 12,400 (23%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,600 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 10,800 (20%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 41,500 (77%)
  • 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

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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