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    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

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    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Jordan!

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    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Timor-Leste


Nearly everyone in Timor-Leste (East Timor) is ethnically Timoran, which is an ethnic group that contains traces of Papuan and Chinese, but is primarily a part of the Malaysian branch of the Polynesian ethnic group. This means the people's closest relatives are the people of the nearby Indonesian islands and Indonesia as a whole.


Tetum is the most commonly spoken language in Timor-Leste and it is also the country's official language. This language belongs to the Austronesian language family, more specifically the Malaysian-Indonesian sub-family, making those two languages its closest well-known relatives. Despite the country's small size, there are another dozen languages natively spoken, some of which have various dialects making the small country quite diverse linguistically.

Portuguese is also an official language in Timor-Leste and many people do understand this language as many Portuguese words have been incorporated into the Dili Tetum dialect. Despite this, few people are fluent in the language as it is spoken in Portugal. English and other popular international languages are spoken to a small degree, but it can be very difficult to find an English, German, or French speaker.


A major reason for Timor-Leste's existence is religion as about 98% of the population adheres to Roman Catholicism, a religion introduced by the Portuguese. Of the remaining couple percent, about half are Muslim and half are Protestant Christian.

Catholicism is a Christian religion that is one of the first Christian religions (founded after the death of Jesus in about 30-33 AD). Catholicism believes that there is a single God who created everything, a savior, the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the forgiver of sins, and there is the Holy Spirit, which makes up the last part of the Holy Trinity. Catholics follow the teachings of the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments. Much of the faith is based on the life and teachings of Jesus, which is found in the gospels (in the New Testament).

Continue reading on Safari the Globe to Learn the Catholic Church's doctrines, liturgy, symbolism, traditions, & hierarchy

This page was last updated: May, 2014