Joloano Sulu Tausug in Indonesia

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

A number of different people groups, known collectively as South Philippine Muslims, live on the Sulu Archipelago, an island chain between the Philippines and the island of Borneo. The Tausug are by far the most dominant of all these groups. The Joloano Sulu are a sub-group of the Tausug. The term Tausug means "people of the sea current." They probably came to the islands from northeastern Mindanao as a result of Chinese trade in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The majority of Tausug reside on Jolo Island, and another significant group lives in Sabah, West Malaysia. The exact time Islam was introduced to the Tausug is not known. However, it may have occurred as early as the tenth century when Arab trade was active with southern China via the islands. While the Joloano Sulu of Indonesia and the Tausug of Malaysia have significant religious freedom, their Tausug cousins in the Philippines are locked into a bitter battle with the mainly Christian Philippines.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The livelihood of the Joloano Sulu is based primarily on fishing and small-scale agriculture. In addition, they also raise some animals such as cattle, chickens, and ducks. The major cash crops are hemp, coconuts, coffee, and fruit. While some farmers still use a slash and burn method of cultivation, most raise rice in non-irrigated fields. Fishing, whether part or full time, is done from motorized boats in offshore coastal waters. They use nets, hooks and lines, and various types of bamboo traps to fish. Most of the Joloano Sulu live in small coastal communities. The smallest territorial unit is the household, and the next largest unit is the village settlement, which often includes related family members. Still larger is the kauman (community), which has a common name and headman. The unity of the kauman depends on such factors as the amount of intermarriage among its members, the effective authority of the headman, and the attendance at a common mosque. This situation reinforces the community's adherence to the Islamic religious system. The typical Joloano Sulu dwelling is raised six to eight feet above the ground. It generally consists of a rectangular room made of timber and bamboo, with a thatched gable roof. The house is surrounded by a series of elevated porches that lead to a separate kitchen. Usually, a fence is built around it for protection. The ideal marriage among the Joloano Sulu is still one arranged by the parents. However, among younger people, courting may occur, and the young people are becoming freer to select their own mates. Parents prefer that they marry first and second cousins, but the younger generation is in the process of broadening their choices. Children sometimes study the Koran with a private tutor, and they have a public ceremony when they are ready to recite the scriptures. Sons are circumcised in their early teens, and it has been reported that daughters are also "circumcised" at six or seven years of age. Girls help their mothers with household duties, while boys help their fathers in the fields or with fishing.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Joloano Sulu are Sunni Muslims of the conservative Shafi'ite branch. However, like many Asian Muslims, they have retained many of their pre-Islamic religious beliefs and rituals. Their world is full of environmental spirits that cause either sickness or good fortune. Their concept of life after death is a mixture of Islamic and indigenous beliefs. They believe that a person has four souls that leave the body upon death. The body of the deceased goes to hell, where his length of punishment is determined by his misconduct while living. Eventually, however, they believe that all Joloano Sulu will reach heaven.

What Are Their Needs?

The Joloano Sulu have remained staunchly devoted to Islam, with nearly all being Muslim. The New Testament has been translated into their language. Very few will even consider the claims of Christ given the community pressure to remain in the Islamic fold.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to show himself powerful and loving by giving them an abundant harvest this season. Pray for the Joloano Sulu people to understand they cannot attain God's favor through works, but their only choice is to depend on the only sin-forgiving Savior. Pray for Holy Spirit anointed workers to go to the Joloano Sulu people until there is a movement to Christ. Pray for Joloano Sulu disciples who will make more disciples who will make even more disciples.

Scripture Prayers for the Tausug, Joloano Sulu in Indonesia.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Tausug
People Name in Country Tausug, Joloano Sulu
Natural Name Joloano Sulu Tausug
Alternate Names Joloano Sulu; Joloanon; Moro Joloano; Sulu; Suluk; Taw sug
Population this Country 22,000
Population all Countries 1,671,000
Total Countries 3
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 15295
ROP3 Code 109891
ROP25 Code 308008
ROP25 Name Tausug
Country Indonesia
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 42  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Kalimantan Utara Province, scattered coastal settlements; immigrants from Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Indonesia
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 42  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Kalimantan Utara Province, scattered coastal settlements; immigrants from Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.33 %)
0.50 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.50 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Tausug (22,000 speakers)
Language Code tsg   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Tausug (22,000 speakers)
Language Code tsg   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Tausug
Photo Source Johanry - Wikimedia  Creative Commons 
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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