Introduction / History
The traditional homeland of the Bedouin is the Arabian Desert; however, some groups have migrated into northern Africa. They are concentrated near the city of Gafsa (Qafsa), which lies just north of a body of water in central Tunisia known as the Shatt al- Gharid.
The Bedouin fall into two basic social classes. One class is known as the "true" Bedouin, and they live as nomadic shepherds. The other group has embraced farming and is known as the fellahin. The fellahin lead a more settled life on the edge of the desert. In contrast, the "true" Bedouin have been known for raiding any caravans that cross their paths while journeying across barren deserts. They move into the desert during the rainy winter seasons and back to the desert's edge during the hot, dry summers. It appears that the Gafsa Bedouin are primarily of the fellahin type. They speak Badawi, or as it is more commonly called, Bedouin Arabic.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Despite being more settled than the nomadic bedouin, the Sanusi Bedouin still have a relatively harsh existence. Those who herd goats and sheep stay close to the desert's edge, and the harsh environment makes farming a difficult task with a poor yield. As in most Bedouin societies, the women do most of the work, while the men tend to socialize and make plans for the group.
Dairy products are the main food source for the Bedouin. Milk from camels and goats is made into yogurt and a type of butter called ghee. Most of their meals consist of a bowl of milk, yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are also served when available. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, are eaten for dessert. Meat is only served on special occasions such as marriage feasts, ceremonial events, or when guests are present.
To endure the extreme heat of the desert, the Bedouin wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. It is very loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air. It is designed to cover the entire body except the head, hands, and feet.
Although the Bedouin once considered it degrading to have manual labor jobs, this has changed somewhat in recent years. Due to the need for better health conditions, more money, and better living conditions, some have accepted wage-paying jobs. However, most of them still despise this type of work.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Almost all of the Gafsa Bedouin in Tunisia are Sunni Muslims. Islam is based on the teachings of the prophet, Mohammed. The Koran ("holy book" of Islam) was supposedly given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel.
Islam is a religion of works that is centered on five basic teachings or "pillars." (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give an obligatory percentage (very similar to tithes) on an annual basis. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
Islam has greatly influenced the lives of the Bedouin. For example, to preserve their people, the Bedouin are only allowed to marry those inside their own group. Also, the society is patrilineal, which means that inheritances are passed down through the males.
What Are Their Needs?
"In most interpretations of Shariah, conversion by Muslims to other religions is forbidden and is termed apostasy. Muslim theology equates apostasy to treason, and in most interpretations of shariah, the penalty for apostasy is death." (Wikipedia) Perhaps this explains why there are only a few known Gafsa Bedouin believers in Tunisia at the present time.
Evangelization efforts among the Bedouin are challenging due to the harsh and unsettled nature of their lifestyle. There is a great need for a strong Christian witness among the Gafsa Bedouin.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to reach out and share the love of Christ with them.
* Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Gafsa Bedouin.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the six known Gafsa Bedouin believers living in Tunisia.
* Pray that their traditional Muslim culture will soften, creating open doors for the Gospel to be preached among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the Bedouin towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Gafsa Bedouin.
|Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center|