Introduction / History
The Gayo live in the isolated central mountains of Aceh province on the island of Sumatera. Their homeland lies in the Bukit Barisan Range ("Parade of Mountains") which has elevations of over 12,000 feet and extends more than one thousand miles. Most Gayo live in the Central Aceh and Southeast Aceh regencies. The Gayo language has four dialects: Lut, Serbejadi-Lukup, Lut and Luwes. Their language does not have a writing system, but folk tales, stories and poetry are passed down in oral tradition. The Gayo are close neighbors to the strongly Islamic Aceh people. In the past, the sultans of Aceh conquered the Gayo region and made the Gayo slaves. After the initial Dutch resistance (during which many Gayo were killed), the Dutch occupied the area from 1904-1942. During this time, the Gayo developed a thriving cash crop economy in vegetables and coffee. During the occupation and during the last several decades of Indonesian independence, the Gayo have gained access to higher levels of education and participated to some degree in the Islamization and modernization of their area.
Where Are they Located?
They live in the and around the Gayo Highlands of Central Aceh. They have also embraced survivors of the Aceh Civil War and the 2004 Tsunami.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Their main source of income is coffee, growing Arabica coffee, which is often referred to as the very best Arabica and Luwak coffee. They are very poor and uneducated. From their traditional dances one can see the root and greatest challenge they face, namely suicide (all ages) due to hopelessness.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Gayo are Muslims, but lacking orthodox understanding of the religion. Many Gayo people believe in good and bad spirits and in holy men, both dead and alive. They regularly give ritual offerings and sacrifices to the spirits, to holy men and to their ancestors. The Gayo people broke away from the Batak Karo people of North Sumatra, because the Batak Karo people are Christians and the people of Gayo are Muslim.
What Are Their Needs?
The Gayo need medical workers to improve the low understanding of health matters. The Gayo also need help in overcoming erosion and dangerous landslides, which at times block important transportation routes in their area. They need more investors to save them from the corrupt buyers enslaving them with in debt and forcing the coffee farmers to sell to them alone. They need quality education systems and health care.
Pray for people to show Jesus to the gentle-hearted Gayo people desperately searching for hope and life.
Additional information from personal correspondence.
|Profile Source: Indonesian Peoples Network, 2011 Copyrighted © Used with permission|