Introduction / History A majority of the Dyula live along the trade routes of the Ivory Coast. Dyula clans have also settled in Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, and Guinea-Bissau. The name dyula means "itinerant trader," and the Dyula are respected for their trading abilities.
In the 1400's, European explorers and merchants who arrived in the area found a flourishing Dyula society. The Portuguese, who were first to arrive, plundered ivory, gold, and ostrich feathers. Later, the Dutch and English explorers implemented the more lucrative slave trade. The Ivory Coast was colonized in 1908 by France. Today, French remains the country's official language.
The Ivory Coast gained its independence in 1960. Five years later, the government implemented a new civil code that undermined all traditional forms of social organization. The new code outlawed polygamy (multiple spouses), abolished the bride price, outlawed forced marriages, and tightened divorce laws.
What are their lives like? The Dyula live in clans, and the clan is the most important aspect of their lives. The people are fiercely loyal to their clans, defending them proudly. They express their history and devotion through the oral traditions of dance and storytelling. Men and women live in separate houses made of mud or cement-the men in round houses and the women in rectangular ones. The father is the head of the family and inheritances are passed down from fathers to their sons. Older males possess the most power and influence.
Even though it is illegal, the Dyula still practice polygamy (multiple spouses) and young people are encouraged to marry within their own clans; even marriages between cousins are approved. Girls usually marry at age 16. Since sanitation in the villages is so primitive, nearly half of the population is under the age of 15 and few live beyond age 45. Therefore, the Dyula have great respect for the elderly, especially if a man is an Islamic scholar.
The Dyula began settling in towns during the 1500's. Some founded their own independent villages; others chose to settle in towns containing other ethnic groups and submit to the local government. The social reforms of 1965 eliminated much of the authority that had previously belonged to family and village leaders.
In addition to being successful merchants and businessmen, the Dyula are excellent craftsmen who create beautiful pottery and cloth for export. Yams are the country's main export; a very large percentage of the country's export economy is agricultural.
The moral principles of the Dyula are based on obedience, honesty, and dedication to their people. Such precepts are motivated by a driving sense of human dignity.
What are their beliefs? The majority of the Dyula are Sunni Muslim. Most of the others, whom the Muslims call "pagans," hold to traditional animistic beliefs (believe that non-living objects have spirits). West African Islam does, however, generally retain local traditions and is more tolerant of diversity than elsewhere. Muslim scholars are held in high esteem.
Their religious ideals share several similarities with Christianity: the belief in one God who is eternal, creator, omniscient; the existence of protecting spirits (or angels); the concept of the sanctuary or the holy of holies; the Spirit of God who communicates; and analogies to explain complex concepts.
What are their needs? Proper sanitation and health care are lacking among the Dyula. Medical missionaries are needed to live and work among the Dyula, showing them the love of Jesus in practical ways.
Even though about a third of the entire country's population is considered Christian and despite devoted efforts by missionaries, there are no known Christians among the Dyula. Very few Christian resources are available to them in their native language. Christian laborers and additional evangelistic tools are needed to reach this Muslim tribe with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth faithful laborers to live and work among the Dyula.
* Pray for the effective use of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials in the Jula language.
* Ask God to raise up teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Dyula.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Dyula towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Dyula who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Dyula.