The Bugis of Indonesia
The Bugis dominate the southwestern 'leg' of Sulawesi, one of
major islands. They inhabit a lush, mountainous region of caves,
waterfalls, and large, shallow lakes. Although many of the Bugis live
in large port cities, the majority are located in small villages
scattered along the coastline and along the rivers and major highways.
They are a very proud people and view themselves as being superior to
other people groups living on the island.
The Bugis speak a distinct language called Basa Ugi. They are
known by others as being very fierce, war-like, and industrious. Honor,
status, and rank are of great importance to the Bugis. They are a very
self-sufficient people who have a positive self image and are very
confident of their own abilities. As one of the major groups in the
region (more than 3 million), they have had considerable influence on
their neighbors. They are a staunch Sunni Muslims, and have been known to resist efforts to evangelize them.
What are their lives like?
The island of Sulawesi has a hot, humid climate with an average yearly
temperature of about 27 degrees C (80 degrees F). The Bugis were once
known as fierce seamen and pirates, however, most of them now earn their
living as traders, fishermen, or rice farmers. Women are expected to
work in the homes by weaving silk sarongs and then selling them. (A
sarong is a colorful skirt that is worn by both men and women in
Indonesia.) Most of the household income is earned by the selling of
Most Bugis live in stilted houses, sometimes three meters (9 feet) or
more off the ground, with plank walls and floors. During growing
seasons some family members may reside in little huts dispersed among
Many of the marriages are still arranged by parents and usually take
place between close cousins. A newlywed couple often lives with the
wife's family for the first few years of their marriage. Divorce is a
common occurrence among the Bugis, particularly between couples united
in arranged marriages.
The Bugis' diet consists mainly of rice, fish, maize, coconut, bananas,
and tea. On certain festive occasions, buffalo is served as a special
dish. Visual and performing arts, such as dance and shadow puppetry,
are a rich part of the Bugis culture.
What are their beliefs?
The Bugis were converted to
the early 1600's. Since that time they have become a strong, even
militant, Sunni Muslim people. They celebrate Islamic feasts and fasts,
as well as praying fives times a day. Their Islamic practices,
however, are heavily influenced by spiritism (belief in many unseen
gods) and ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors).
One well-known group of Bugis practice what they call Tuanni. This
involves the worship of several gods such as the "potato god," the "rice
god," and the "god of the kings." They also believe that certain
illnesses and misfortunes are inflicted on people by the "spirits" of
fire, air, earth, and water.
What are their needs?
The Bugis have successfully resisted any attempts to bring them to the
Gospel for over 400 years. Just prior to World War II, South Sulawesi
experienced a small spiritual awakening and there may have been as many
as 10,000 Bugis Christians at that time. Unfortunately, the Japanese
destroyed most of the churches and the Islamic militants killed the few
remaining Christians. Today the government has closed its doors to
Christian missionaries, and there is no known witness in the Bugis'
Although the Bible was available in their native language around the
turn of the century, that translation is now out of date. The new Basa
Ugi translation has been started and awaits correction and publishing.
Believers are persecuted, churches have been forced underground, and
most villages have no access to the Gospel. Though there are a few
Christian churches in other areas of Sulawesi, they have no burden for
reaching their Muslim Bugis neighbors. These local churches are
suffering from spiritual stagnation, and reports show that many of the
Christians among them practice occultism. Biblical instruction and
pastoring are severely lacking.