Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
About 600 Cham people live in the capital city of Laos, Vientiane. The Cham are one of the most well-known and interesting people groups in Southeast Asia, but few are aware of their existence within the country of Laos, although one tourist book does mention them... "A very small number of Muslims live in Vientiane, mostly Arab and Indian merchants whose ancestry dates back as far as the 17th century. Vientiane also harbors a small community of Chams, Cambodian Muslims who fled Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea in the 1970's. The latter now have their own mosque in Vientiane."
The majority of Cham (195,000) live in Cambodia. Approximately 100,000 more live in Vietnam, while others live in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Thailand, USA, France, Saudi Arabia and Libya. The Cham Diaspora reflects their history as a great sea-faring people.
The Cham are one of the ancient ethnic groups in Southeast Asia. When Marco Polo traveled through the area in 1285, he reported that Chamba was... "a very rich region, having a king of its own. The people are idolaters and pay a yearly tribute to the Great Kaan, which consists of elephants and nothing but elephants.... You must know that in that kingdom no woman is allowed to marry until the King shall have seen her; if the woman pleases him then he takes her to wife; if she does not, he gives her a dowry to get a husband withal.... At that time the King had, between sons and daughters, 326 children, of whom at least 150 were men fit to carry arms."
The Cham language is part of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. It is divided into two varieties, Western Cham and Eastern Cham, which enjoy only limited mutual intelligibility.
While all Western Cham (including those in Laos) are Muslims, the Eastern Cham follow a complicated religious mix including Brahmanism, a sect of Hinduism that venerates Siva.
The Western Cham are a completely unreached people group in Asia. There are handful of known believers among them in Canada and the United States, however.
* The Cham in Laos are strong Muslims. Pray Christ would place a hunger in their hearts to know Him.
* Pray Christians in Vientiane would share the gospel with the Cham.
* Pray that obstacles to the flow of the gospel be removed.