Introduction / History
The Oy live in the fertile Boloven Plateau region of southern Laos. At an elevation of approximately 3,500 feet, the plateau was once very productive. However, civil wars, poor transportation, and plant disease have combined to destroy coffee, cotton, and tobacco experiments.
The ancestors of the Oy were part of the great Khmer Empire that flourished from the ninth century to the thirteenth century. The empire, which encompassed present-day Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam, declined after the Thai and Vietnamese invasions. The center of the Cambodian Kingdom, known as Angkor, was located in the Boloven region, where there are ruins dating from the eighth to the twelfth centuries.
In recent years, Laos has been the scene of numerous battles and the object of political competition between China, Russia, and Vietnam. Due to their obscurity, very little information is known about the specific lifestyle of the Oy.
What are Their Lives Like?
Most of the Oy are rice farmers who use the "slash and burn" method of cultivation. Since much of the area is covered with brush and tall grass, they first clear the plots by burning off the vegetation. Then they grow dry rice on it for three or four years before moving to new territory.
The main agricultural crop is rice, but cassava, sweet potatoes, and bananas are also major products. Vast bamboo groves exist, and forested areas contain a number of quality hardwoods such as wild date, mahogany, teak, and rosewood, as well as berry, bean, and rubber trees. The region has basaltic red soils that give it a rubber-growing potential. In addition to farming, the Oy gather various products from the forests to supplement their incomes. Fishing also provides a reliable source of protein.
Oy society is basically patriarchal (male dominated), and family leadership is directed by the eldest male. The village is the most significant political unit of their society. Each is led by a village headman, who oversees the affairs of the community and decides important issues. Although the tribesmen are considered citizens of Laos, most of them have no special representation in the government.
What are Their Beliefs?
Although most of the surround peoples have adopted Buddhism, virtually all of the Oy continue to practice their traditional ethnic religion. Their practices often include aspects of animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) and ancestor worship (praying to deceased relatives for guidance and protection). The Oy believe that the forces and objects of nature contain both good and evil spirits. These spirits are associated with trees and fields, parents and grandparents, illnesses, and magical powers. The villagers live in fear of the spirits and constantly strive to appease them. They are particularly fearful of the village spirits.
The Oy also live in fear of sorcerers who can cause illness or death. They depend on medicine men to cure sicknesses or make protective amulets. They also consult mediums to communicate with the spirits on their behalf. The village priest is responsible for making sacrifices to various spirits of the village. He also maintains order in the village so that the spirits are not disturbed.
What are Their Needs?
The Laotian economy is sustained chiefly through agriculture. The Vietnam War, the disastrous implementation of Marxist economics in 1975-79, and the flight of skilled workers all contributed to making Laos one of Asia's poorest nations. However, great potential exists for the people of the Boloven Plateau if adequate resources for transportation, labor, and technology can be found. Crops could be grown in abundance, aluminum bauxite could be mined, and hydroelectric plants could be built. The Laotian government needs assistance in such massive developments.
The Oy are a war-torn people who need emotional healing and spiritual hope. Additional laborers, evangelistic tools, and increased prayer efforts are needed to effectively reach them with the Gospel of Christ.
* Pray that Christian laborers may gain access to the Boloven Plateau to preach the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Oy who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that missions organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Oy.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Laos through worship and intercession.
* Pray that the Oy believers will rise to the challenge of taking the Gospel to their own people.
|Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center|