Introduction / History
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation and continues to grow rapidly. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, many of which are Muslim. The Toala are one of many hundreds of distinct people groups living there. The Indonesian islands act as vital sea routes between Asia, Europe, and Australia. They are also the principal link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Toala live in eastern central region of Sulawesi (or Celebes), one of the major Indonesian islands. Sulawesi is a large, crab-shaped island that is generally mountainous and marked by volcanic cones. The Toala live near the valleys of the Poso, Laa, and Kalaena Rivers.
Numerous other tribes live among the Toala, all of whom are similar in religion and culture. They also all speak dialects of one common language.
Prior to the twentieth century, the Toala highlands were often raided for coffee and slaves. Headhunting raids to avenge the death of a kinsman were also common.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Toala raise all of their own food. Rice, the major crop, is planted in terraced paddies and harvested by hand. Single metal-bladed plows drawn by water buffalo or men are still in use. Toala farmers also grow maize, chilies, beans, yams, and potatoes. Cash crops include coffee and cloves. They also gather snails, eels, and small fish from unplanted wet rice fields. Domestic animals include chickens, pigs, and water buffaloes, which are sacrificed on ritual occasions.
Villages tend to be small and are located either on hilltops or scattered along the plains. As many as four to six families may live together in one house. Villages are based on local kin groups, with all of the members being related by blood or marriage. Emphasis is placed on respect for one's elders, diligence, and the importance of the family over one's individual and personal needs.
In the past, some marriages of the aristocracy were polygynous (having many wives), but today most are monogamous (having only one spouse). Once married, a person could choose to live in the village of his father, mother, or spouse. Some marriages are still arranged by the parents; but today, most young people are allowed to select their own mates.
Adoption is a very common occurrence among the Toala. Children are reared by both their parents and their siblings. It is believed that family ties can be extended and strengthened by allowing relatives and friends to adopt one's children. In such cases, the children will often move back and forth between the households of their adoptive and biological parents.
The Toala are known for their elaborately carved houses and rice barns, as well as life-size statues of certain wealthy, deceased aristocrats.
While the Toala are reported to be Sunni Muslims, various forms of animistic practices (belief that non-human objects have spirits) have continued to influence their culture.
What Are Their Needs?
Among the Toala, the funeral is the most critical event in life. They believe that this ritual allows the deceased to leave the world of the living and proceed to the next. Funeral ceremonies vary in length and complexity, depending on one's wealth and status.
Unfortunately, the Toala have access to very few Christian resources. Who will tell the precious Toala that life can only be found through Jesus Christ?
Pray that Christian literature, radio broadcasts, and television programs will be made available in their language.
Ask the Lord to send missionaries who can effectively minister the Gospel to Muslims.
Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the believers.
Pray that their government will open its doors to Christian missionaries so that the Gospel may be preached freely.
Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Toala.
Scripture Prayers for the Toala in Indonesia.
Bethany World Prayer Center