Focus UPG: Wolio of Indonesia

Map source: Copyright © IPN – Indonesian People Network. Used with permission.

Who are they?

  • The Wolio (also known as the Baubau, Buton or Butung) primarily live on the island of Buton, around the city of Baubau, but can also be found on Muna, located in the SE Sulawesi province. Their ancestors were immigrants from Johor, Malaysia at the beginning of the 15th century, who also founded the Buton dynasty. In 1540, the sixth king became a follower of Islam. He reshaped the kingdom to become a sultanate and set himself up as the first sultan. The sultanate of Buton lasted until the death of the last sultan in 1960. With his death, the Buton sultanate ended its formal reign, though the influence of Buton is still felt throughout all of the islands in the region. The Wolio are at the heart of the culture of Buton. Buton today is known for its production of asphalt and is currently being explored for oil and other minerals. Many people have moved to other islands to find work. At present, some Wolio people live in the areas of Maluku and Papua.

What language do they speak?

  • They speak the Wolio language, which is from the Wotu-Wolio language cluster that includes the following languages: Kalao, Laiyolo, Kamaru, Wotu. Arabic is also understood by some and its script is used in religious writings and older written materials in the Wolio language.

What do they believe?

  • Almost all Wolio have beliefs centered in Sufi Islam. According to their teachings, they practice mediation in order to receive visions from God, or to find hidden truths far beyond their own reasoning. Belief in reincarnation is also adhered to as a result of Hindu influence. They also believe that evil spirits cause illnesses to occur while helpful spirits give guidance.

Do they have Bible or partial of the Bible, or other materials?

  • No.

How can we pray for them?

  • Ask God to give wisdom and strategies to the workers to gain access and favor among the people group. Workers need the wisdom of God to navigate cultural, political and religious issues.
  • Ask God to touch the people’s hearts and give them hunger for Him and His word.
  • Ask God to reveal the culture keys.

(Resources: Prayerguard and Joshua Project.)

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