Introduction / History
The Shom Pens or Shompens are the inhabitants of the interior of Great Nicobar Island in the Gulf of Bengal. Their name comes from the Nicobarese word for "tribe." Some anthropologists believe that they came from the island of Sumatra over 10,000 years ago. The Shom Pens are a separate people from the Nicobarese who live on the coast of the Nicobar Island. A Danish expedition made first contact with the Shom Pen in 1846. Linguistic experts disagree as to whether the Shom Pen's languages are related or unrelated to the Nicobarese tongue.
The Indian government has made it illegal for anthropologists or missionaries to visit or do research on the Shom Pens.
Where are they located?
The Shom Pen people live only in the interior Great Nicobar Island in the India Union territory of Adaman and Nicobar Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean.
What are their lives like?
The Indian government estimated in 2001 that only 300 Shom Pen remained, down from the possible thousands who lived during previous eras on the Nicobar Islands. The Indian government believes their numbers have declined since 2001.
The Shom Pen live a semi-nomadic existence. The men are hunters who use bow and arrows and spears to kill pigs, small animals, birds and fish. The women raise pigs and plant yams and vegetables. They also forage the forest for fruits and other edibles. Their food is cooked outside. The Shom Pen start their fires using hand drills through friction.
The climate of Nicobar Island is very warm and tropical. The Shom Pen men wear only a thin loincloth. The women wear a shirt made of bark cloth. Both men and woman do not wear shoes or sandals. Their villages consist of a few families living together in small huts made of wood, thatch and palm leaves.
What are their beliefs?
We know little about the religious beliefs of the Shom Pens. The Shom Pens are most likely animistic. Animism is a worldview that holds that good and evil spirits inhabit the surrounding parts of nature. One spirit may live in a tree and another in a rock or stream. Animists spend much of their time trying to appease evil spirits.
What are their needs?
The Shom Pens desperately need medical help with their physical needs. Most tribal people do not live to the age of 50. They could use the immunizations, vaccines and antibiotics of modern medicine. The Shom Pens need help with establishing an adequate, stable food supply. Most of all, the Shom Pen need to hear of God's love in Christ in a way they can understand.
Pray the Indian government would allow Christian missionaries to visit and share the gospel with the Shom Pens.
Pray that Christian workers would be allowed to help the Shom Pens with their medical, education and vocational needs.
ReferencesView Shom Pens in all countries.