The indigenous peoples of Kalimantan Island speak around 80 different languages and many dialects. Christians are a majority in many groups, and a sizeable minority in others. Christian leaders need training, but the isolation, spiritual opposition, and lack of indigenous Scriptures slow down development. Praise God that new models of Scripture translating and storying are accelerating this process significantly in many languages in Kalimantan.
Kalimantan: The unreached - although Kalimantan has many Christian peoples, dozens of groups remain largely untouched by the gospel.
- The large Kalimantan Malay people cluster of 4.5 million is dominated by the Banjar, at 3.5 million and one of Indonesia's least-evangelized peoples. They live along the eastern and southern coasts and up the rivers; they devotedly practice Islam with strong animistic elements. Increasing numbers of individuals, churches and groups have begun to pray for and reach out to them. Converts are few, and almost all those who follow Christ have to live as secret believers. Pray for entire families to come to Christ and to be able to remain as witnesses in their communities.
- Transmigrants number over one million. These are Javanese (nominally Muslim), Balinese (Hindu), Bugis and Madurese (strongly Muslim). They live in transmigrant settlements and oil-boom towns in the east. Only among the Javanese are there growing churches, but they have little vision for outreach to other groups. In the late 1990s, Dayak resentment of the high-handedness of Madurese transmigrants in West Kalimantan boiled into violence, with hundreds massacred and thousands displaced. Pray that local nominal Christians may overcome their anger – as well as cultural and religious barriers – to reach out in love to transmigrant groups.
- Animist peoples of the interior present a challenge. They are predominantly of Dayak origin. The least reached of these are the Barito cluster, including the Bakumpai, Siang and Ampunang. The complexities of reaching such isolated tribal groups are immense and living conditions difficult. Medical and educational work and ministry with orphans are all potentially fruitful. Praise God for MAF's valuable aviation ministry that allows access to these areas. Pray for more pioneers willing to reach out to these hard-to-access but receptive peoples.
- The Chinese-descent Indonesians, 20% of the population in West Kalimantan, prove less responsive to the gospel than elsewhere, though many are nominally Christian. Pray for the witness of Chinese Christians and for churches on the coast, in Pontianak and up the Kapuas River.
West Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara Barat):
- The three major indigenous people groups remain largely unevangelized amidst ongoing efforts to reach them for the past 20 or more years, although greater responsiveness is also reported. They are: Muslim Sasak (2.75m) on Lombok, and Bima (650,000) and Sumbawa (400,000) on Sumbawa Island. There are less than 200 known believers among the Sasak, less than 100 among the Bima and less than 20 among the Sumbawa. All three groups are strongly Muslim but still adhere to animistic beliefs. Several second- and third-generation house fellowships have formed among the Bima and Sumbawa.
Flores is 80% Catholic but steeped in pagan and idolatrous rituals sometimes involving snake worship. Born-again Christians are very few and largely Timorese. No language of Flores has Scripture. The Manggarai (660,000) - around half are Muslim and half are animist - are the largest group in the Flores-Sumba-Alor people cluster. Pray for spiritual breakthrough for the Manggarai and others to encounter the power and love of Jesus.
Sumba, an island long known for its animism and resistance to the gospel, saw a movement of the Spirit in the late 1980s, with Protestants doubling from 75,000 to 160,000 in five years. Pray that this movement may impact all seven language groups on the island; nearly one-third are still animists while many Christians, both Reformed and Catholic, are nominal.
- A great outpouring of the Spirit in 1965-68 resulted in renewal within the Church and thousands of conversions. About 20% of Timorese were converted; the vast majority stayed with their faith through the decades, despite the changes those decades brought.
- The wide-scale killing and destruction that followed East Timor's (Timor Leste) vote to become independent of Indonesia resulted in a number of refugee camps holding thousands of people in West Timor. Today, the remaining camps are populated by ex-militia and their families who cannot go back to Timor Leste. Hundreds of these families are involved in prayer and Bible study groups. Pray that this development would grow and impact many more lives.
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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.