Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center
Introduction / History
The Atwot live in the Upper Nile River Valley of South Sudan in the Lakes Province. Their central meeting place is in the town of Yirol. They are linguistically related to the Nuer, and culturally related to and influenced by the Nuer and Dinka groups who surround them on all sides.
History tells us that 300 to 500 years ago the Atwot and Nuer were one group, living on the west bank of the Bahr-el-Jebel River. Because of internal strife, the group split, and the Atwot migrated south. They moved their herds along the Payii River into their present location, fifty or sixty miles west of the White Nile. At that time, their land was already inhabited by a people who specialized in hunting, trapping, fishing, and iron-working. These people, believed to be the Dinka, gradually spread to the east and west of the Atwot, into their current location. This history may account for the similarities in many areas of culture between the Nuer, the Dinka, and the Atwot tribes.
What are Their Lives Like?
Most Atwot are shepherds and farmers. The northern Atwot region is covered with open grasslands which provide crucial grazing land for herds during the dry season. Further south are dense tropical forests where the Atwot cultivate crops during much of the rainy season. The people grow millet, beans, groundnuts, and cassava. Cattle are moved seasonally between dry-season camps and wet-season camps, and the Atwot themselves have wet-season and dry-season villages.
Although most Atwot live in rural areas, they travel to Yirol and other towns for various necessities. Yirol, the administrative center for the region, has many shops where salt, grain, cloth, cookware, and other items are sold. In open-air markets near the towns, the Atwot sell dried fish, grain, squash, and beans. At least two elementary schools, as well as police and army stations, are located in Yirol. Visiting the towns gives the Atwot a change of scenery and routine from their rural village dwellings.
The Atwot live in homesteads that are connected by narrow paths. Individual huts are extremely solid; they are built ten to twelve feet above the ground, each resting on a pile of timber. Underneath each hut, around the timber, is an area for cooking and storing household utensils. Usually one or more smaller huts are built on the ground. These are used to shelter sheep and goats at night. Cattle are rarely brought to homestead settlements. A newly-married man usually builds his own hut on the same settlement as his father. Each wife has her own hut, which her husband builds for her. She maintains her own garden and uses the produce to feed her family.
When an Atwot boy reaches puberty, his head is shaved and he is initiated by going through a period of training called acot. All boys of the same age are subjected to this training. During this time, they learn to pay strict respect to the older males. After the acot, the young men are allowed to wear a beaded girdle, and they become members of the marriage class.
What are Their Beliefs?
Most of the Atwot are ethnic religionists. They believe that the divinity Decau is the Supreme Being, the creator of all. The people pray directly to Decau, offering him sacrifices in times of trouble.
The Atwot practice divination and magic. They also believe that certain people are possessed by heavenly powers and may guide the lives of others and bring inanimate objects to life. They believe a person can only be possessed by such powers if he or she is a calm, cool-hearted, mature adult.
What are Their Needs?
The Atwot have no Christian resources available to them. A majority of them have never had an opportunity to hear the Gospel. Prayer and increased evangelistic efforts are the keys to reaching them with the Gospel message.
* Ask the Lord to send Christian laborers and missionaries into South Sudan to work with the Atwot.
* Ask God to save key Atwot leaders who will boldly share the love of Jesus with their own people.
* Pray that the people will begin to hunger for a personal relationship with God.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Atwot church for the glory of His name!
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