Sumatra is the largest unevangelized island on earth. Most of its largest people groups are strongly Muslim. Others practise folk Islam. Many spiritual strongholds must be broken. Christianity is strong here among previously animist peoples (the Batak, Nias, Mentawai), and among the Chinese. The Batak people are successful and migrate all over Indonesia. But their ethnic pride, strong devotion to old customs, and frequent conflict with Sumatran Muslims all hinder their Christian witness. The Chinese live in most cities, and operate 60% of businesses. Pray for Christians to reach beyond their own ethnic groups and witness to the non-Christian peoples around them.
Sumatra is prone to natural disasters, since it lies in a geologically volatile area. The earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed over 200,000 – mostly in Aceh – and rendered 500,000 people homeless. Further tragedies are inevitable. Meanwhile, ruthless logging threatens the environment, the traditional lifestyles of many peoples and a large number of critically endangered species. Pray that wise government will curtail the destruction occurring in the name of greed and that responsible planning will minimize loss of life in future earthquakes and floods.
Pray for the unreached of Sumatra:
- The 3.5 million Aceh people are very strongly Muslim and have been influential in spreading Islam to other Indonesian peoples. Unrest and violence associated with an independence movement plagued the province for over 300 years. A peace treaty was signed in 2005, with Aceh made into a special territory having significant autonomy. The devastation of the 2004 tsunami drew many Christian aid and relief organizations to the area. The differing approaches of agencies for demonstrating God's love while offering assistance caused some problems with the strict Muslims; some encouraging fruit has come from these efforts. The Aceh NT was published in 1992.
- The smaller people groups of northern Sumatra. Simeulue Island is 100% Muslim. It was hard hit by the tsunami, but aid has brought roads, an airport, a hospital, new homes and dissatisfaction with a subsistence lifestyle. The Gayo are folk-Islamic and grow coffee high in the mountains. The folk-Islamic Tamiang have no known believers. The Mandailing are proud to have almost no Christians among their group, while the Angkola group is 3-5% Christian.
- The Minangkabau-Rejang people cluster. The 8.1 million matrilineal Minangkabau of West Sumatra are well educated, widely travelled and successful - as well as being devoted Muslims. There may be 500-1000 believers at most. The 350,000 Rejang and the 300,000 Kerinci practice folk Islam, with magic having great influence. They have little to no Christian resources in their languages, and believers between them number less than 200.
- The Malay-related peoples of Eastern and Southern Sumatra, including the Deli (2.1m), Melayu Riau (2.1m) and Jambi (1m). There are several dozen believers among the first two groups, but these have almost all moved away from their communities or distanced themselves culturally. The Jambi are among Indonesia's least-evangelized people with only a handful of Christians, all of whom live outside the Jambi region.
- The Muslim peoples of Central and South Sumatra are all without a congregation of believers, despite increasing outreach. There are a handful of believers among the Batin, Bengkulu, Enim and Lembak, but none at all among the Kaur, Lematang, Ogan and Semendo.
- The peoples of Lampung in the south. The indigenous peoples are resentful of newcomers from Java. No churches are known among the indigenous Lampung Peminggir (500,000), Komering (450,000), Lampung Abung (180,000) or Lampung Pubian (100,000). There are churches among the many Java transmigrants in the area, and some ministry among these groups. Translation of the Bible into Lampung is underway.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.