Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
More than 17,000 people belonging to the Alak ethnic group live in southern Laos. The highest concentration of Alak is found in Xekong Province. Others are found in Saravan and Attapu provinces. Many communities in the area are difficult to visit because of lack of roads, although in one location, foreign tourists can visit an Alak village by riding elephants from Tadlo Resort for 5,000 kip ($1) per hour. In some places the Alak have integrated with the Katu and it is difficult to tell the two groups apart.
What are Their Lives Like?
The Alak like to arrange their palm and thatch houses in a circle around a communal house. Many work on coffee plantations that were planted by the French in the early 1900's. Others work on rubber and banana plantations.
The Alak have retained most of their customs and many women wear traditional dress. In the past, Alak women tattooed their faces, but this custom is now dying out. Alak society is traditionally matriarchal. The women lead the family, keep control of finances, and make all major decisions that affect the community.
There are several clans among the Alak, named after certain types of animals such as pigs, buffalos and chickens. These animals are considered sacred by the members of each clan, who are not allowed to eat them.
The Alak, along with the Talieng, Lavae and Katu, participate in the annual Buffalo-Sacrifice Ceremony. Annual festivals are also held to honor the spirits who protect their villages. In times of sickness or calamity, or if a poor crop is produced, the Alak believe they have provoked the spirits and a ceremony is held in order to find the offended deity. A chicken is boiled and a shaman summoned to study the liver patterns and stomachs of the chicken. This form of divination is believed to be able to pinpoint the spirit that caused the disaster.
There are only a tiny number of known Christians among the Alak in Laos. Most Alak have never heard the Gospel in a manner they can easily comprehend. Gospel recordings exist in five different Alak dialects. These audio tools are a great help to people wishing to take the Gospel to this group. Just over a third of Alak (one-fifth of the women) are able to read.
* Ask God to raise up a triumphant Alak church for the sake of His glorious Name.
* Ask God to send Christians to live among the Alak.
* Pray winds of revival would blow through the numerous unreached Mon-Khmer groups in southern Laos.