Praying Through the Window III -- October, 1997

The Unreached Peoples

Day 25

Tuareg Homeland: Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso
Religion: Islam, Animism

An aura of mystery surrounds the desert nomads known as the Tuareg. All of their adult life, the tall, fair Tuareg men cover themselves with a long blue veil, which the most conservative will not remove in front of others even to eat. Long known as warriors, traders, and capable guides through the dangers of the Sahara desert, the Tuareg find their independence now threatened as drought after drought kills their herds.

The Tuareg have a rigid caste system, but unlike their Arab neighbors, they balance the responsibilities of men and women. Tuareg women, the guardians of language, are often asked to decide questions of law or literature. Tuareg children inherit their mother's property and social status, even into marriage. While the Tuareg are nominally Muslim, many came to the desert to avoid submitting to Arab conquerors and converting to Islam. They use music to cast out evil spirits, and amulets to protect themselves from lonely spirits haunting the desert. Many Tuareg, especially those who have left nomadic life for the city, admit that they too are a lonely people.

For generations the Tuareg have been proud and independent, but now their way of life is being challenged. Lord, we pray for Christians who can address their physical and spiritual needs.

Saharan Berber Homeland: Algeria
Religion: Islam, Animism

Centuries ago several groups of Berbers, persecuted for their strict form of Islam, migrated from northern Algeria to an area south of Algiers. Their homeland may be the most desolate region of the Sahara. One of the groups, the Mzabi, built five cities on the slope of the Wadi Mzab, a river that flows only once every dozen years. In the holy city Beni-Isguen, strangers are not allowed to stay the night. The Mzabis have the distinction of being the only city-dwelling people of the Sahara, but must work constantly to irrigate their elaborate network of palm groves and gardens. Mzabis do not marry outside their community, nor allow outsiders to enter their mosques.

Holy Spirit, bring streams of living water to the Mzabis and other Berber groups of the desert.

Southern Shilha Berber Homeland: Morocco, Algeria
Religion: Islam, Animism

Several million Shilha, or Isilhayn Berbers live in Morocco's high Atlas mountains, where they inhabit deep river valleys. Their small, isolated villages often lay close to the river, with mountain slopes above divided into pasture and farmland. Some of the storehouses forming the focus of Southern Shilha communities were built by ancestors in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many Southern Shilha are leaving their villages to seek better jobs in Morocco's northern cities. After securing jobs, workers live frugally and send money home until their families can join them. Some of these city Shilha have come into contact with small groups of Arab and expatriate Christians. A few have become believers, but they have no church to call their own.

Lord, bring lasting fruit from radio broadcasts to isolated mountain people like the Shilha.

Shuwa Arabs Homeland: Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Niger
Religion: Islam, Animism

"My greatest success is my family," says the Shuwa Arab patriarch. "Every night my sons and grandsons return to my tents with the herds, my heart swells with pride. Nothing could be worse than the barren, impoverished home, anonymous with no sons to pass down the name." As a people, the Shuwa Arabs are far from anonymous. Indeed, they may be the most influential of Chad's peoples. Chadian Arab groups are scattered across Chad from east to west. Living in close contact with all the country's people groups, Arabs visit the markets of the Sahel, marry the daughters of other tribes and sometimes share their way of life. When cultures meet, however, it is the Arabic culture that has sway. Their language is used in government, religion, and literature, and was for many centuries the only written language of Chad.

Christ, may Arab traders spread your good name through the Sahel, as they spread Islam so many years ago.

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