By: GPM Humanitarian Affairs and Redevelopment Department
Nestled along the river banks deep within the Tasik Banding of Grik forest lies the enchanting settlement of Kg. Orang Asli Klewang, home to the Jahai Tribe of Orang Asli. On the 18th of January 2024, amidst the tranquil surroundings of the Global Peace Mission (GPM) Malaysia Outdoor Retreat, our humanitarian team had the privilege of meeting this remarkable community. Led by the venerable Tok Batin Zamri bin Libis, our encounter with the Jahai Tribe offered profound insights into their unique way of life, beliefs, and cultural practices.
The Jahai Tribe, comprising 46 families and 105 individuals, offers a captivating glimpse into a world where tradition and modernity intertwine harmoniously. As we were greeted by Tok Batin at the Balai Adat, a sense of reverence enveloped us, signaling the beginning of an enlightening journey into the heart of their community.
Central to the Jahai worldview is the belief in ‘Agama Bumi dan Alam,’ a spiritual ethos closely resembling animism. Here, the natural world is revered, and spirits are believed to inhabit every facet of existence. While rooted in their indigenous faith, it’s noteworthy that some members of the community also embrace Abrahamic religions, such Islam and Christian, adding layers of diversity to their spiritual tapestry.
The socio-economic fabric of the Jahai community is intricately woven with traditional practices and modern adaptations. Relying on hunting, fishing, and the collection of forest products, they sustain themselves through a deep connection with the land. Additionally, some members engage in handicrafts for livelihood, showcasing their artistic prowess. Notably, remnants of a barter system still persist, underscoring their self-sufficiency and resourcefulness.
Language serves as a vessel of cultural heritage, with Bahasa Asal being the linguistic bridge that binds the community together. The Jahai calendar marks their New Year on the 28th of August, a time of celebration and reverence for ancestral spirits. During these sacred rituals, visitors are respectfully prohibited from observing, highlighting the sanctity and privacy accorded to their traditions. Moreover, their unique categorization of land into Tanah Bebas, Tanah Adat, and Tanah Rayau reflects a deep-seated connection to their ancestral territories.
In a gesture of goodwill and support, the GPM team contributed cash assistance to all the families in the village. This contribution was a token of solidarity from GPM Malaysia, reflecting their commitment to support underserved communities. Additionally, the team shared chocolates with the children of the tribe, a simple yet joyful act that brought laughter and happiness to the young ones.
“The visit to the Jahai tribe was an eye-opening and humbling experience for all of us,” said Nik Afiqah. “It was not just about offering support, but also about learning and respecting the rich culture and traditions of the Jahai people. We are grateful for the warm welcome we received and are committed to continuing our support for the Orang Asli communities.”
The visit to the Jahai tribe during the Global Peace Mission retreat was a reminder of the diverse tapestry of cultures that make up Malaysia. It underscored the importance of cultural sensitivity, mutual respect, and the need to support indigenous communities in preserving their heritage and livelihoods.
As GPM Malaysia continues its mission of promoting peace and understanding, experiences like these are invaluable. They not only broaden perspectives but also strengthen the resolve to make a meaningful difference in every community they touch.