Total Population: 1,138,000
Unreached Population: 0 (0.0%)
Number of People Groups: 22
Number of Unreached People Groups: 0 (0.0%)
Largest Religious Group: Christianity (91.0%)
Professing Christians: 91.0% (2.18% Evangelicals)
By gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002, East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, became one of the youngest countries in the world today. Colonized by the Portuguese during the mid 16th century and occupied for nearly 500 years, East Timor declared itself free from Portugal in 1975, only to be invaded by Indonesia nine days later and heralded a period of suffering for the next 25 years where many died as a result of war, famine and disease
Being a young nation, many Timorese still live in poverty today as the government continues to rebuild the nation by putting more efforts in developing the education and health sectors. Adult literacy rate climbed to around 60% in 2010 while the use of Portuguese continues to gain prominence as the medium of instruction in education since independence. However, in spite of the encouraging developments, it is still a common sight to see children and youths begging and roaming on the streets, with many even being involved in local gangs.
Around 89% of Timorese are Roman Catholics, with 2.18% being Evangelicals and around 8.6% being adherents of the ethnic religions; making it the only other Christian nation in Asia apart from the Philippines. While Catholicism was initially introduced to the country by the Portuguese, the influence of the Catholic Church really took hold and began to strengthen only during the period of Indonesian invasion (1975-1999). Under Indonesian rule, Timorese were required to adhere to one of five officially recognized religions. Majority of them who are animists ended up choosing to embrace the Catholic faith, mainly as a strong marker of national identity (as opposed to Islamic Indonesia) and in response to the local Catholic churches that spoke up against human rights abuses of Indonesian authorities. Additionally, rituals of Roman Catholicism also appealed to the indigenous practices.
It is not uncommon that animist beliefs remain strong in the daily life of Timorese Catholics. Though they may identify themselves as Catholics, their cultural practices and outlook on life are greatly influenced by such beliefs while spirits of the dead are widely feared and worshipped. Despite being viewed with prejudice and suspicion, Evangelical churches co-work closely to prepare more workers and Christian resources, with the hope to impact the nation with the biblically sound Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
Pray for East Timor
1. Pray for the Church in East Timor to be an effective Gospel witness among the people while being an active support to the government in its national rebuilding efforts;
2. Pray for more Christian leaders to be raised towards empowering Timorese Christians to hold on firmly to the Biblical faith amidst challenges of daily living;
3. Pray for production of more Christian resources in various indigenous languages for Timorese Christians to exercise and share their faith with others.