People-in-Country Profile

People Selector:
Print version:
Step 1 - Select a Country:   Send us your updates!
Step 2 - Select a People:  

Besemah in Indonesia


Send us a photo of this people.  [1]

Besemah in Indonesia map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
731,000 Malay, Central Islam 1.50 % 0.01 %   

Besemah in Indonesia

Profile Text
Submit Profile Text:

Introduction / History
Pasemah was the name given by a foreigner to this people group due to a difference in pronunciation. Their name is actually Besemah, which is more consistent with how they themselves and other people groups around them would pronounce the name. The center of the Besemah territory is the volcanic peak, Mount Dempo. Besemah communities spread from that volcano's slopes to the west, south and southwest along the Bukit Barisan mountain range. Historically, their political center was Pagar Alam, which helped protect the Besemah from their aggressive neighbors, mostly the Rejang. The Besemah live in South Sumatra province across a few districts in the Lahat regency and the entire Pagar Alam municipality. Some Besemah also live in the South Ogan Komering Ulu (OKU) regency. Their communities in the Lahat regency are in the Tanjung Sakti, Jarai, Fajar Bulan, Kota Agung and Besemah Air Keruh (extension of the districts of Ulu Musi and Lahat) districts. In the South OKU regency, they live the Muara Dua Kisam district and because of that Besemah in the area are often called the Kisam people .They also live in Bengkulu province in North Kaur district.

What are their lives like?
Agriculture is the principle economic activity of the Besemah and is based on three key crops: rice, rubber and coffee. Planting and harvesting is carried out by groups of five to ten people working in a wage or share cropping system. Besemah houses are built from wood, with tin roofs and usually have three to four rooms including a closed kitchen in the back part of the house. The traditional Besemah house is built on raised platforms as high as 1.5-2.5 meters off the ground. The area under the house is used for various purposes, such as a place to cool down on hot days, or a place to store tools, food and other items. The Besemah recognize three types of marriage: (1) belaki, where groom pays a bride price, pays for the wedding and the newlyweds live with the husband's family; (2) ambil anak, in which the husband moves in with the wife's family and does not need to pay for anything, neither the bride price nor for the wedding; (3) semendean, in which the wedding cost is split and the newlywed couple are free to choose where to live. These days, many youth follow yet another pattern for marriage, eloping.

What are their beliefs?
For the most part, the Besemah are Muslim. Islam entered the southeastern part of the Besemah area in the 16th century. The west and northwest areas converted to Islam in the 19th century. The form of Islam followed at that time was the Sufi Islam, which later spread to all of Sumatra. The teachings of Sufi Islam are focused on feelings and stress the importance of knowing God more than merely observing religious rituals. In the Besemah highlands, there are 26 historical sites including ruins, cemeteries and domes enclosing statues of Buddha that have been considered sacred places since the 2nd century. There are also large stone statues depicting such scenes as a soldier riding an elephant, a man wrestling with a snake and a large ocean wave. Besemah people still use these statues as sites for making sacred oaths and calling upon their ancestors' spirits for blessing and seeking their protection against natural disasters.

What are their needs?
One primary need of the Besemah people is for better medical care. They also need help and training to increase crop production through use of appropriate technology for packaging coffee for sale. Coffee has good potential to be developed as an industry for the area.

View Besemah in all countries.

Prayer Links
  Submit Update:
Country: Indonesia
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Southeast
Persecution Rank:49 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Sumatra island, Sumatera Selatan Province; east down Lematang and Ogan river valleys, south of Muaraenim town, east and southeast of Lahat town; Bengkulu Province; central Bukit Barisan highlands west to Indian Ocean along Bengkulu coast; Lampung Province, 4 separate enclaves.
(Source: Ethnologue 2016)
Submit Map:
Country Map:Political map
Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
Submit Update:
People Name in Country: Besemah
People Name General: Besemah
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 116022
Joshua Project People ID: 20294
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 731,000
Population all Countries: 731,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
People Cluster: Pasemah of Sumatra
People Name General: Besemah
Ethnic Code: MSY44k
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
Submit Update:
Primary Language: Malay, Central (731,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): pse    Ethnologue Listing
Primary Dialect:Pasemah
Dialect Code:1181
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
Submit Update:
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity1.50 %(Evangelical: 0.01 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam98.50 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant80.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic20.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 2   Less than 2% Evangelical. Initial (localized) church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
Submit Update:
Bible Portions: Yes
New Testament:
Complete Bible: None Reported
Possible Bible Sources: Forum of Bible Agencies
 World Bible Finder
 World Christian Resource Directory
 Gospel Go
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio RecordingsOnline New Testament (FCBH)
Audio RecordingsStory of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project ...
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Malay, Central
Ministry Activity
Register Ministry Activity:
Networking: Visit for networking possibilities.
Description: Register your ministry activity among this people group. Contact the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and Unleashed for the Unreached to learn about others that might be focused on this people group.
Data Notes
Data Sources

Besemah in Indonesia

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Pasemah of Sumatra     Asia, Southeast    
      Besemah Indonesia    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Besemah in Indonesia          
      Religion Language  
      Islam     Malay, Central  
    All Religions                              

Direct link: