The Riau Melayu

Day 11 – The Riau Melayu

“We are so glad you are visiting! Come to our friends’ wedding with us!”

Weddings and funerals are almost a weekly event in the villages of the Riau Archipelago, Indonesia and the whole village is usually invited. Life and death, celebration and mourning intermingle as the villagers connect through these rituals.

The Riau Melayu are spread throughout 3000 Sumatran islands and into mainland Sumatra. Community and solidarity binds the villagers together. At any given house, one of the first items a visitor sees after calling out, “Assalamualaikum” (peace be upon you), is a large picture of Mecca hanging on the wall.

The Riau Melayu are over 99 percent Muslim. How this looks in the islands differs depending on the local religious teacher and the villagers, but practice of Islamic rituals is often limited, while the cultural identity of being a Muslim is interwoven into every part of the culture.

An interesting point about the local language is that the dialect of Malay spoken in Riau Province is considered by linguists to have one of the least complex grammars among the languages of the world. This may be a result of its use as a trade language between the different people who have converged in this area throughout history. The language is used to express the story of these people through poetry, proverbs and legends.

Some of those stories are of God’s goodness, and a few Riau Melayu tell them to others, leading people in their communities to Jesus.

How to Pray

The Riau Islands have been heavily deforested, causing high danger of wildfires and economic distress. Pray for wise management of their natural resources.

Pray that their language will be used by many to share the story of Jesus.

Pray that followers of Christ will multiply throughout the islands through the strong community network already built into the fabric of this beautifully hospitable culture.

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