Jarai in Vietnam

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People Name: Jarai
Country: Vietnam
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 525,000
World Population: 551,000
Primary Language: Jarai
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 30.00 %
Evangelicals: 26.33 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Cham
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

In 1887 Vietnam became part of French Indochina. After WWII the Vietnamese declared freedom from France but France rule continued until Communist Ho Chi Min overthrew them in 1954. The Geneva Accord of 1954 split the country into North and South Vietnam. The US gave aid to South Vietnam but withdrew from the country in 1973. Two years later the Communist North overtook the South and "re-united" the country.

The Jarai are a people group in the Southern Vietnam Central Highlands. The Jarai language is related to the Cham language of Vietnam and the Malayo-Polynesian languages of Indonesia, Malaysia, Madagascar and the Philipines. Because they are an ethnic minority in Vietnam the Jarai face persecution. The Jarai sought independence through the failed attempt of the Degar Movement.

Where Are they Located?

The Jarai are located in the Highlands of Southern Vietnam. Jarai live mainly in the Gia Lai and Kon Tum Provinces of Southern Vietnam. They are also found scattered in several other provinces of Vietnam and in Cambodia. The Jarai make their living by growing corn and rice.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Jarai trace are matrilineal and trace their ancestry through the women. Jarai villages are laid out in a square. Everything is arranged around the village center. The village center has a communal house, a well, volleyball nets and a rice mill. Jarai villages are named after nearby rivers or village chiefs. Houses were once made of bamboo but more recently are made of wood with steel roofs.

Jarai enjoy music and perform music on gongs, xylophones and zithers. The The Jarai are also known for their use of bamboo tubes for wind flutes and percussion. Jarai traditional dress includes indigo blouses and long skirts worn by the women.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Most Jarai are animists. They believe that demons inhabit creation and animals are sacrificed to appease these spirits. The most popular spirits are that of fire and water. When a person dies there is a prolonged funeral/time of mourning as part of the death ceremony. Carved effigies and totems are often made for the deceased. During the final death ceremony the Jarai will claim the person officially dead and the spirit released. If the deceased was married the living spouse is then free to marry.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance brought Christianity to the Jarai in the 1970s. The Jarai Christians of Cambodia and Vietnam number around 100,000.

Prayer Points

Pray that Jarai Christians would be trained to lead the church and share Him with others.
Pray that Christian Jarai would use their instruments to worship God.
Pray that the Jarai would find freedom from the spirits.
Pray that the Jarai would find freedom in the biblical understanding of death.

Text Source:   Rachel Routt