Introduction / History
The Hobongan people are a semi-nomadic group of people living in north central Borneo. In the past they were known as the headhunters of Borneo. The coastal people considered them to be animals and said that they had tails. However, in the past two generations much has changed for the Hobongan people as they have come into contact with the outside world. They now use boats and outboard motors to make frequent trips to the nearest towns. They wear modern clothing and build cement houses and carry cell phones. They have also been exposed to the Gospel and today there is a church among the Hobongan people.
Where Are they Located?
The Hobongan are living at the headwaters of the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. They form five villages located on five different rivers.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Although the Hobongan practice swidden agriculture, their primary economic activity is searching for jungle products that can be sold in the markets downriver. The most significant of these is gold mining. Because of this they are constantly traveling and live away from the village for significant lengths of time. Family is the primary unit of their culture, and they work and travel as families. They prize children highly and give a high measure of respect to older people. Many of the older people are still illiterate, but most of the young people have had some formal schooling and can read. The staple of their diet is rice and meat from the animals that they hunt in the jungle.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Hobongan were animists, believing that the world was controlled by evil spirits. And in turn, with certain rituals and incantations, they could have a measure of control over these evil spirits. In short their lives were ruled by fear of these evil spirits. With increased contact with the outside initially the Hobongan accepted the Roman Catholic religion, at least in name. But this did not change their animistic worldview. It has only been since they have heard and accepted the Gospel that some have truly renounced animism.
* Pray for the growth of the Hobongan church so that they can be fully independent, teaching their own congregations and children.
* Pray too that they would be challenged to reach out to other people groups who still do not have access to the Gospel.
Searcy, Rachel. Personal experience as Bible translator among the Hobongan.
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