People-in-Country Profile

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

Mah Meri, Besisi in Malaysia

Mah Meri, Besisi

Send us a photo of this people.  [1]

Mah Meri, Besisi in Malaysia map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
4,000 Mah Meri Ethnic Religions 1.00 % 0.90 % No No   

Mah Meri, Besisi in Malaysia

Profile Text
Submit Profile Text:

Introduction / History
The Mah Meri (Mah meaning people and Meri meaning forest), originally known as the Besisi, also call themselves Ma Betisek, which means, "people with fish scales". The Mah Meri are one of the nineteen Orang Asli people groups of Peninsular Malaysia. They are officially classified under Senoi subgroup.

There is no information on their origin, but the Mah Meri tribe claims to have walked the earth for as long as one can remember. They live in the states of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca, and Johor.

What are their lives like?
Living in small wooden houses set in harmony with the surrounding forces of nature, the Mah Meri prefer to remain "forest people." Hence in their villages, life seems relatively untouched by modern progress. They are known for their woodcarving skills, yet their economic activity remains rooted in agriculture and fishing. They resist employment outside of their community.

The Mah Meri are soft-spoken and trusting with a propensity to laugh in the face of adversity. While the adults carry out their daily economic activities, the children often ride their father's bicycles and play their favorite games with sticks, seeds, and other objects. Surprisingly, the Mah Meri community has managed to preserve a tradition of spiritual woodcarving that is truly world class in terms of quality of its craft and artistry. The art, which has rich mythological meanings behind the images and symbols, is handed down from father to son. As not many people seem interested in such animistic carvings, the young Mah Meri do not see it as a profitable trade.

What are their beliefs?
The Mah Meri believe that humans, plants, animals, and even inanimate objects possess spirits, which interact with the daily lives of the Mah Meri. They say that ancestral spirits cursed plants and animals to become food for humans. Yet, paradoxically they also believe illness or injury is caused by offended spirits of plants or animals which have been killed. Natural disasters are the result of transgression of their moral code.

In earlier times, woodcarving of characters or moyang masks and figures from folk stories were used in spirit huts and left in the jungle, as offerings to the forest forces. All Mah Meri agree that the mythological characters are supreme. They believe some of the moyang influence health, illness, and healing. Their main festival is the Day of the Ancestors where offerings and rituals are made to their ancestral spirits. They see dreams as indicators of future events. The Mah Meri are rather resistant towards outside beliefs.

What are their needs?
The physical needs of the Mah Meri are many. They are poor, lacking in proper health care and clean water. They live in dilapidated houses, and their children have very little chance of receiving a proper education. Ask for caring believers who can assist in meeting the physical needs. Pray also for local believers who will relate and respond to the spiritual needs of these people.

View Mah Meri, Besisi in all countries.

Prayer Links
  Submit Update:
Country: Malaysia
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Southeast
Persecution Rank:46 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Peninsular, coastal areas of Selangor, Putrajaya, and Negeri Sembilan; also islands near such coasts.
(Source: Ethnologue 2016)
  Peoples [3]
Submit Update:
People Name in Country: Mah Meri, Besisi
People Name General: Mah Meri, Besisi
Alternate People Names:
BesisiMah Meri
ROP3 Code: 106021
Joshua Project People ID: 13213
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 4,000
Population all Countries: 4,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
People Cluster: West Malaysia Indigenous
People Name General: Mah Meri, Besisi
Ethnic Code: AUG05
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
Submit Update:
Primary Language: Mah Meri
Language Code (ISO): mhe    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
Submit Update:
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity1.00 %(Evangelical: 0.90 %)
Ethnic Religions67.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam32.00 % 
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
Submit Update:
Bible Portions: Help start a Bible Translation
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Ministry Resources [7]
None Reported
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

Mah Meri, Besisi in Malaysia

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    West Malaysia Indigenous     Asia, Southeast    
      Mah Meri, Besisi Malaysia    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Mah Meri, Besisi in Malaysia          
      Religion Language  
      Ethnic Religions     Mah Meri  
    All Religions                              

Direct link: