Introduction / History
The Gbeya people are settled subsistence farmers and fishermen, living in northern Central African Republic (CAR). Some live in the western area of the country also. There are approximately 200,000 Gbeya according to the 2003 census. They are organized in clans within a hierarchical community structure.
The history of the Central African Republic states that the Gbeya people migrated from the eastern edge of Africa, across Sudan, to escape the Arab conquests of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Before Christianity, the Gbeya believed in animism of different forms: ngaanga, zembe, sereze and unzimara. Christianity has come to the Gbeya people through the Brethren Mission of the United States in the early nineteenth century. Currently, many denominations are active among the Gbeya. The main denominations are the Brethren, Catholic, Baptist, and Apostolic churches. Many Gbeya people claim to be Christians (about 97%), but they still also practice their traditional animistic religion. Forms of syncretism are strong among them.
The Gbeya language belongs to the Niger-Congo family and is in the Adamawa-Ubangi group. Scripture portions were translated into Gbeya in the 1950s by Brethren Missionaries, but were not used because of the government policy of promoting only one national language. In 1994, SIL conducted sociolinguistic surveys and launched a translation project with a team of three translators. This project was handed over to ACATBA in 2001. The Brethren Church is still the main partner of this language project.
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