Introduction / History The hills of Western Java is populated primarily by Sundanese Muslims, but located in the western sector are the Badui people, a remnant of archaic Sundanese society, speaking an old dialect of Sundanese. The Badui purposely isolated themselves in this mountainous region when Java became predominantly Muslim in religion. They have maintained a rigid, caste-like system of social stratification. Descent is traced through both parents, but the nuclear family is not as strong as among the major ethnic group of Java. Village patterns consist of approximately 35 small clusters of houses interspersed among fields of swidden-rice cultivation. Three villages have remained completely isolated from non-Badui contacts. The Badui who dress in black speak with outsiders, but those in white sarongs must maintain strict isolation. The government has attempted to educate these people and bring an improved lifestyle to them. But the majority have refused this help and consequently remain illiterate and primitive. Baduis have a reputation for using black magic. People fear them for their ability to predict the future and to cast spells on their enemies.
Due to their withdrawal, they have refused to educate their offspring in the Indonesian public schools. The government has not enforced education, and consequently they remain illiterate and primitive. Badui men are reportedly allowed to ride the trains free of charge. The men wear dark blue or black shirts and sarongs and wrap their waist-length hair up under black cloth on their heads. Picture-taking is taboo.
A major difficulty is to access Badui territory. Perhaps the first step would be to establish a contact point on the fringe and begin to befriend some Badui. The most natural contact would be the Sundanese rather than foreigners. Workers should be prepared with some good culturally-oriented gospel visuals since the people cannot read. The people's black magic and fetishes mean one should be prepared for power-encounter situations. Healing and exorcism ministry would be appropriate to accompany preaching of the gospel. A foreign Christian linguist-translator could be placed in the area to work on the language with low-key gospel input initially.
Ways should be sought to reach a mobile Badui who has natural relationships on the inside. Other ethnic Christians could then be introduced. The few Badui associated with the entrepreneur are an example of those with outside contacts. A risk would be the alienation of those contacts. The youth would be a receptive target audience. Those who have traveled outside and been exposed to non-Badui life are candidates for change. However, the culture could easily face disequilibrium if the older people are bypassed. Workers must befriend them and discover felt needs unique to their isolated life-style. Later a more complete strategy can be formed to reach the whole tribe. It has been reported that some Indonesian government officials have asked the Badui for advice on affairs of state because they believe the Badui have special powers to predict the future and to cast spells on enemies. Yet the Badui themselves prefer to remain illiterate rather than educate their children in Indonesia's public schools.
Since the gospel has come to Java, they have staunchly resisted that as well. At one time, an Indonesian Christian spoke with some Badui about Jesus Christ, but his efforts were strongly opposed by the tribe's leaders. Although there is no data to prove it, it seems clear that reaching the blue Badui is a key to the people as a whole. They are not open to any witnessing by Christians. Yet a few Javanese Christians have risked their lives trying to bring the gospel to this needy people.
What are their beliefs? Folk religion is the dominant spiritual force in their daily lives. Exposure to Christianity has been minimal within Baduiland because it is so isolated. During the 1970s a zealous Sundanese Christian made several trips to Badui and many converts were reported. His life was in jeopardy at times and he had to flee the area. That contact has not persisted, and there remains no Christian witness. Even when the gospel contact was made, the people were strongly opposed. The only outside contact with these people now is a nearby entrepreneur who employs some Badui to demonstrate cultural artifacts and customs.