Bugis In New York City

Their legend grew due to the horrifying tales of early European sailors. As the fiercest pirates in the archipelago, Bugis men used to prey upon European trading ships entering the Straits of Malacca. The sailors who made it back alive told tale after tale of battles on the sea, of ransacked ships and stolen goods and, above all, of the fierce pirates whose mere image struck fear into every European sailor… “the Bugimen.” Imagine the rugged sailor in the European marketplace with a defiant child alongside him. He turns to the boy with a sinister gleam and eerily warns, “You better behave my boy… or the „Boogeyman‟ will get you.” In modern-day Indonesia around Lake Tempe and Lake Sidenreng in South Sulawesi, Bugis carry on the tradition of sailing and fishing, even if they have lost the mystique once harbored by European sailors. For centuries, they were primarily rice farmers. However, many are now successful merchants and traders in their respective fields. Like the days of old, they still have a reputation for being fierce, war-like and industrious.

When Did They Come to New York?
As governmental persecution spread throughout Indonesia in the late 1990s, many Bugis began immigrating to New York. They came due to the lure of freedom and, of course, due to the overwhelming economic and educational opportunities. It is estimated that there are approximately 70 Bugis now living in the New York City Metro area. At least a small percentage of these do not have proper documentation to be in the country.

Where Do They Live?
Nestled into the growing Indonesian enclave, Bugis have settled in the Elmhurst, Corona and Woodside areas of Queens.

What Do They Believe?
Originally Buddhists, Bugis were forced to convert to Islam in the early 1600s. Though they practice a more strict, orthodox form of Islam than some of their Indonesian neighbors, they also maintain a deep spiritism that is manifested in acts of spirit possession and ancestor veneration. Before WW II, there was a small spiritual awakening in Sulawesi. There may have been as many as 10,000 Christians then, but now there are only about 3,000 Christians out of over 4 million Bugis in the world. These receding numbers are probably due to the entrenched belief that to be Bugis is to be Muslim.

What Are Their Lives Like?
Some Bugis women are skilled in weaving silk sarongs and have found a market for these among the Indonesian population in New York. Bugis men most often work long hours in service jobs to support their families. Their diet consists mainly of rice, maize, fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and coffee. They have a history in visual and performing arts, such as dance and recitations of epic poetry, which has largely been replaced by modern entertainment such as karaoke. Bugis most often worship at the Masjid Al-Hikmah Mosque in Long Island City alongside other Indonesians. Although difficult to maintain in the new culture that surrounds them, Bugis remain faithful Muslims who center their lives around Islamic customs and rituals.

How Can I Pray?
With such a small percentage of Bugis being Christian (around .08%), one could easily feel very pessimistic about their prospects of accepting the Gospel. However, God is the One who performs miraculous wonders. Pray that He would reach down and open Bugis‟ hearts to receive Him.

There are several Indonesian churches in the neighborhoods where the Bugis live. Pray that they would effectively reach out to their Bugis neighbors.

Pray that the move to America will make it more acceptable in the Bugis‟ worldview to leave the religion they grew up with to become a follower of Christ.

Source: http://www.bcnychurchplanting.org/