Monday, April 09, 2007

Arab, Shuwa of Western and Central Africa

Please pray for the:
Arab, Shuwa of Western and Central Africa
Population: 1,891,000
Language: Arabic, Chadean, Sudanese
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.03%

Taking the Church Where it's Needed Most

Who are they?
The Shuwa Arabs are commonly referred to as the "Baggara." This name is derived from the Arabic word bagar, meaning "cow," and refers to the Arab tribes in West Africa who are cattle herders. They are spread from the Lake Chad region eastward to the Nile River in the countries of Sudan, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. They live in a hot, semi-arid climate with zones ranging from sparse shrub lands to wooded grasslands. The Baggara tribes are of Arab descent and mainly speak the Shuwa dialect of the Arabic language. They entered western Sudan between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and have gradually moved east and west from there. By the eighteenth century, they were concentrated primarily to the north and east of Lake Chad. Their tribes continued moving eastward until they became widely scattered across the horizontal plains of West Africa. They have intermarried with the Negroid tribes who lived close to them. This mixture of blood has given the Baggara darker skin and thicker lips than other Arabs.

What are their beliefs?

The Baggara have been Muslims since the thirteenth century. They wear the clothes prescribed by the Muslim religion, and bury their dead facing Mecca, the "holy city" of Islam. The Baggara are a very superstitious people who believe strongly in evil spirits. Each morning a man sneezes in order to rid his nostrils of the evil spirit who slept there the night before. The Baggara also believe that men and women can be changed into animals such as were-crocodiles and were-hyenas.

What are their needs?

Some of the Baggara tribes have been targeted by missions agencies. Portions of the Bible have been translated into their language and some Christian broadcasts are also available to them. However, because the people are so devoted to the Islamic faith, very few of them have converted to Christianity. Also, the nomadic lifestyle of the Baggara makes it very difficult for missionaries to reach them. Concentrated prayer and evangelism efforts are necessary in order to penetrate the hearts of the Baggara with the Gospel.

Prayer Points:
  • Pray against the spirit of Islam that has kept the Baggara bound for many generations.
  • Pray that God will raise up long term workers to join those who have already responded.
  • Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Muslims who have become Christians.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will complete the work begun in their hearts through adequate discipleship.
  • Ask the Lord to call out prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that Christians living in West Africa will be stirred with vision for outreach and a genuine burden to reach out to the Baggara tribes.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Baggara.

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