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Bajau in Indonesia


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Bajau in Indonesia map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
350,000 Bajau, Indonesian Islam 0.08 % 0.08 % No   

Bajau in Indonesia

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Introduction / History
The Bajau (also known as Bayo, Gaj, Luaan, or Lutaos) are a highly mobile maritime people group found throughout the coastal areas of Sulawesi, Maluku, Kalimantan, Sumatera and East Nusa Tenggara. They can also be found in the neighboring countries of Malaysia and the Philippines. Their high mobility led outsiders to refer to them as "Sea Gypsies". In Eastern Indonesia, the largest number of Bajau are found on the islands and in the coastal districts of Sulawesi. They speak the language of Bajau. The Bajau language is part of a larger linguistic grouping called the Sama Bajau which also includes the West Coast Bajau of Malaysia (Sabah) and the Sinama, Mapun, Balangingi and Yakan of the Philippines.

What are their lives like?
While most Bajau have begun to live in houses built on stilts in shallow water, some Bajau are boat dwellers. Among the Bajau boat dwellers, local communities consist of scattered moorage groups made up of families whose members regularly return, between intervals of fishing, to a common anchorage site. Two to six families will group together in an alliance to regularly fish and anchor together, often sharing food, nets and gear and pooling labor. The marine life exploited by the Bajau fishermen is diverse, including over 200 species of fish. Fishing activity varies with the tides, monsoonal and local winds, currents, migrations of pelagic fish and the monthly lunar cycle. During moonless nights, fishing is often done with lanterns, using spears and hand lines. Today, fishing is primarily for market sale. Most fish are preserved by salting or drying. In some cases turtles are caught and kept under the house until an appropriate feasting time (such as the marriage of a son) – to the chagrin of marine conservationists. The boats that are used as family dwellings vary in size and construction. In Indonesia and Malaysia, boats average 10 meters in length and 2 meters in width. They are plank construction with solid keel and bow sections. All are equipped with a roofed living area made of poles and straw matting and a portable earthenware hearth, usually carried near the stern, used for preparing family meals. The boat-dwelling Bajau (in contrast to their neighbors) see themselves as non-aggressive people who prefer flight to physical confrontation. As a consequence, the politically dominant groups of the region have historically viewed the Bajau with disdain as timid, unreliable subjects.

What are their beliefs?
The Bajau are Sunni Muslim of the Shafi'i school. Claims to religious piety and learning are an important source of individual prestige. Owing to their nomadic way of life, the Bajau moorage groups lack mosques (mesjid) and must rely on the shore-based or stilt-house communities for this. Among boat dwelling communities in particular, community shamans (dukun) are assembled at least once a year for a public séance and nightly trance dancing. In times of epidemic illness, they are also called on to set a spirit boat adrift in the open sea beyond the village or anchorage site in order to remove the illness-causing spirits from the community.

What are their needs?
At this time, the Bajau need infrastructure development and renovations in the areas of health and education. Medical workers, facilities and services in their communities are very inadequate. In the area of education, partially due to their nomadic lifestyle, many Bajau people are illiterate.

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Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2007-06-14
Global Prayer Digest: 2013-06-22
Pray for Sulawesi
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Country: Indonesia
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Southeast
Persecution Rank:33 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Widespread throughout north central Indonesia, Sulawesi island; also throughout Maluku Utara Province on Bacan, Obi, Kayoa, and Sula islands, southwest of Halmahera island.
(Source: Ethnologue 2016)
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Country Map:Political map
Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Bajau
People Name General: Bajau
Alternate People Names:
Sea Gypsy
ROP3 Code: 100798
Joshua Project People ID: 10582
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 350,000
Population all Countries: 350,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
People Cluster: Tukangbesi of Sulawesi
People Name General: Bajau
Ethnic Code: MSY44q
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Bajau, Indonesian (350,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): bdl    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity0.08 %(Evangelical: 0.08 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam99.92 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(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 1   Less than 2% Evangelical. Some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: 2020
New Testament: None Reported
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
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Bajau, Indonesian
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Bajau in Indonesia

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Tukangbesi of Sulawesi     Asia, Southeast    
      Bajau Indonesia    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Bajau in Indonesia          
      Religion Language  
      Islam     Bajau, Indonesian  
    All Religions                              

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