Introduction / History A number of different people groups, known collectively as South Philippine Muslims (or Moros), live on the Sulu Archipelago, an island chain between the Philippines and the island of Borneo. By far, the Tausug are the most dominant of all these groups. The Joloano Sulu are a sub-group of the Tausug.
The term Tausug means "people of the sea current." They probably came to the islands from northeastern Mindanao as a result of Chinese trade in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The majority of Tausug reside on Jolo Island, and another significant group lives in Sabah, West Malaysia. The exact time Islam was introduced to the Tausug is not known. However, it may have occurred as early as the tenth century when Arab trade was active with southern China via the islands. While the Joloano Sulu of Indonesia and the Tausug of Malaysia have significant religious freedom, their Tausug cousins in the Philippines are locked into a bitter battle with the mainly Christian Philippines.
What are their lives like? The livelihood of the Joloano Sulu is based primarily on fishing and small-scale agriculture. In addition, some animals such as cattle, chickens, and ducks are raised. The major cash crops are coconuts, coffee, and fruit. While some farmers still use a slash and burn method of cultivation, most raise rice in non-irrigated fields. Fishing, whether part or full time, is done from motorized boats in offshore coastal waters. Nets, hooks and lines, and various types of bamboo traps are used.
Most of the Joloano Sulu live in small coastal communities. The smallest territorial unit is the household, and the next largest unit is the lungan (village settlement), which often includes related family members. Still larger is the kauman (community), which has a common name and headman. The unity of the kauman depends on such factors as the amount of intermarriage among its members, the effective authority of the headman, and the attendance at a common mosque.
The typical Joloano Sulu dwelling is raised six to eight feet above the ground. It generally consists of a rectangular room made of timber and bamboo, with a thatched gable roof. The house is surrounded by a series of elevated porches that lead to a separate kitchen. Usually, a fence is built around it for protection.
The ideal marriage among the Joloano Sulu is still one arranged by the parents. However, among younger people, courting may occur, and the young people are free to select their own mates. First and second cousins are favored as spouses.
Children sometimes study the Koran with a private tutor, and a public ceremony is held when they are ready to recite the scriptures. Sons are circumcised in their early teens, and it has been reported that daughters are also circumcised at six or seven years of age. Girls help their mothers with household duties, while boys help their fathers in the fields or with fishing.
What are their beliefs? The Joloano Sulu are Sunni Muslims of the Shafi'ite branch. However, like many Asian Muslims, they have retained many of their pre-Islamic religious beliefs and rituals. Their world is full of environmental spirits that cause either sickness or good fortune. Their concept of life after death is a mixture of Islamic and indigenous beliefs. They believe that a person has four souls that leave the body upon death. The body of the deceased goes to hell, where his length of punishment is determined by his misconduct while living. Eventually, however, they believe that all Joloano Sulu will reach heaven.
What are their needs? The Joloano Sulu have remained staunchly devoted to Islam, with nearly all being Muslim. The New Testament has been translated into their language. Converts have been few.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to send full-time Christian workers to minister Life to the Joloano Sulu.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies that are focusing on them.
* Pray that Christian radio broadcasts will soon be available to the Joloano Sulu.
* Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the few Joloano Sulu believers.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Joloano Sulu.