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The Mentawai Future: Religions

All Indonesians are required to profess one of the state-supported religions: Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. The government of Indonesia views Jarayak, traditional Mentawai animism, as a primitive belief of ignorant tribal people. Although many Mentawai still practice Jarayak, most shamans will say they are Christian, to avoid the possibility of violence against them and their families.

Though Islam arrived in Indonesia a decade after the Christian missionaries, it may soon surpass Christianity in total number of converts; church-run schools begin influencing children early. Islam promises youngsters the "best" education for “free,” as well as great opportunities for the brightest pupils to continue their studies on the mainland. The price is that they must live in Muslim communities and strictly adhere to Muslim beliefs.

Both Christian and Muslim beliefs are devastating to the traditional Mentawai way of life. Pigs are pivotal in Mentawai culture, central to every major ritual and a primary source of protein. Conversion to Islam means eating no pork. Both religions consider all rituals and ceremonies to be abominations. This religious conflict tears clans apart and prevents family members of other faiths from attending important Jarayak ceremonies, such as weddings. Throughout history, religion, when used as a weapon of assimilation and oppression, has effectively exterminated countless peoples and cultures. If this continues, the same will be true of the Mentawai.

EXPLORE MENTAWAI CULTURE

Challenges the Mentawai face:
Introduction: Change or Vanish
Social Structure
Modern Clothing
Schools
Religions
Costs of Relocation
Inappropriate Housing
Malnutrition & Epidemics
Fighting Back

MENTAWAI FLASH PRESENTATION

Mentawai Cultural Photo Documentary

View our breathtaking documentary slideshow and discover more about Mentawai shamanism, rituals and daily life.

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