What a fascinating, and tragic, story that seems like it should have been written in the 16th century.
The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba – the people of the jungle. Their faith and nomadic way of life are not recognised by the state and, as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, many are being forced to convert to Islam to survive.
In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing “I will protect Islam till I die” and shout “There is no god but Allah”, in unison.
Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam.
The Islamic Defenders Front – a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence – helped facilitate the conversion.
Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised.
“For now we are focusing on the children. It’s easier to convert them – their mind isn’t filled with other things. With the older ones it’s harder,” he says.
But village leader Muhammad Yusuf – Yuguk, to use his Orang Rimba name – was thinking about surviving in this life when he converted.
“It was a very heavy and difficult decision, but we feel like we have no choice, if we want to move forward,” he says quietly.
The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.
“This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig’s blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed,” the officer explained.
What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.
“Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it’s a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser.”