The Bahah people represent a cultural and religious ethnic minority in their country. Few of them speak English. The Bahah number over one million.(Bahah is not the real name of this people group, and they live in an undisclosed location.)
Current SIM Ministry
SIM missionaries minister to this people group primarily through Bible translation, friendship evangelism, literature, and oral media in the local story-telling style. They are also involved in co-leading training seminars for evangelicals (many of them tentmakers) who wish to reach their own people with God’s love in a culturally sensitive way.
SIM began work among the Bahah in 1984. SIM's small team has a vision to partner with others to establish a church among this ethnic minority. The environment among this deeply religious people has caused many starts and stops among all groups that have begun ministry to them.
Bible translators completed their first book of the New Testament in 1988. The books of James, Luke, Jonah, Revelation, Acts and the “Joseph” story have been completed and are being used by the few Bahah Christians. The JESUS film is also available in Bahah.
The Bahah live in the coastal plains of a vast river basin in Asia, an expanse of marshlands interlaced with streams.
Society: The Bahah operate on a social caste system. Those descending from the founder of the people have the higher status. Family and individual honor play an important role in their culture. They have a strong sense of pride and shame and go to great lengths not to offend one another. Children are nurtured and sheltered and taught to be quiet and respectful of their elders.
Marriage: Marriage between the social classes seems to be quite common. Marriage is considered a union of the two families. In rural areas, arranged marriages are quite common. The groom courts his bride by giving gifts to her family. Unarranged marriages are frequent in the large cities. Although polygamy is considered immoral, the affluent normally take more than one wife.
Living Conditions: Typical Bahah communities are made up of many small grass/bamboo huts and large wooden houses containing multiple dwelling units. These houses may be occupied by a single family, or more often, by several families related by varying degrees of kinship. Many are quite mobile and take up residence with relatives for indefinite periods. There is a sense of commonality in the use of the land and resources among the Bahah.
Livelihood: The Bahah make their living as farmers, fishermen, seafarers, traders, and artisans. They grow rice and coconuts and design brassware, mats, jewelry, tools, and weaponry that they trade with the people of neighboring provinces.
Arts and Crafts: Bahah arts and crafts are well developed, demonstrating artistry in weaving and metal work.
Religion: The Bahah are one of the largest ethnic groups in their area. They are sincere in their faith; however, many of their practices are mixed with their traditional animistic beliefs. Devoutly religious, the Bahah are not generally receptive to the story of Jesus and greatly resist all other religions.
Government: The Bahah are governed by religious law. The local police and court system handle the major criminal offenses, although some offenses are handled by their religious council, a community of leaders knowledgeable about their specific religious law.
As a religious minority, the Bahah have suffered for centuries at the hands of the majority. Because of their devout faith and reluctance to compromise, they have lagged behind politically and economically in comparison to other ethnic groups, making them one of the more impoverished in an already poor country.