Introduction / History
The Hazara inhabit an immense tract of Central Afghanistan consisting of narrow valleys, rugged mountain masses, and turbulent rivers. Their main occupation is farming grain. All of the people groups of Afghanistan are experiencing turmoil as a result of the civil war. Destruction of villages has caused mass movements of people to the capital cities or as refugees to Pakistan and Iran.
After a decade of Soviet occupation (and the ongoing civil war), more than 30 million unmapped landmines have been deployed; much of the farm land of the Hazara now lies barren and unusable. Traditionally, the Hazara would carry on a comparatively peaceful pastoral existence, following the grazing from their crude winter quarters to their summer camping grounds on the upper slopes of Hazarajat. Basically only cultivating enough crops for their own needs, many seek employment in Southern Afghanistan or in Northern India during the winter.
What are their lives like?
Most of the year, the Hazara live in villages consisting of 30 to 100 houses. The walls are made of baked mud bricks. Long narrow tree trunks support a flat mud-covered roof. The roofs are covered with mulberries and grapes in autumn; the dried fruit sustains families during the winter.
One-third of the villagers follow their herds into the highlands, staying from May to early September. The people live in yurts, circular tent-like dwellings.
Conflicts within the villages are traditionally resolved by a consensus of the leading men. Since the Hazar-Afghan war, however, this system of self-rule has been weakened and largely replaced by governmental control. Political leaders may come to power based upon personal wealth or social connections; others are representatives appointed by the people.
One very influential person is the Sayyid, an Islamic authority who uses his sacred qualities to serve the religious needs of the community. Formal education of one to two years is provided for boys only. Teachings are centered on Islam. Memorizing poetry is a common mode of instruction.
Recreation consists of storytelling, wrestling, and a game similar to baseball. A favorite sport, similar to polo, involves carrying a goat carcass by competing horsemen to a goal a couple of miles away.
What are their beliefs?
The Hazara are Muslims (mostly Imami Shi'ite, otherwise known as "Twelvers", who hold a particular reverence for the son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed). A number of Hazara who have strong ties with the Tajik people are Ismaili Shi'ites (also known as "Seveners"). Strong feelings prevail between the two sects, each one often denying they have any ethnic affinity with the other at all.
What are their needs?
The health of the Hazara is perhaps the worst of any in Afghanistan. Lack of personal cleanliness is common in the yurts. Eye trouble is frequent among travelers who encounter mountain dust storms and for those living in the smoky village houses. Children often suffer from worms, and more than half of the Hazara are estimated to be suffering from or carrying tuberculosis. Little of the rural water in Afghanistan is safe to drink; not much more is safe to drink in the cities. Illiteracy is high. Adequate educational opportunities need to be provided for both boys and girls.
With the civil war still in progress, there is little opportunity for missions work, and those that are continuing (mainly medical and humanitarian in nature) are doing so under extreme difficulties. There are no official missionaries working among the Hazara.
Access to the Hazara's homelands is difficult in summer and virtually impossible in the winter. Christian converts are hesitant to meet with other believers for fear that a spy may be present among them. Christians turned in by government informants may face torture and even death unless they renounce their faith in Christ.
One of the most striking qualities of the Afghan people is their toughness. Popular responses are based on tradition, steeped in religion, and colored by tribal relics of war, romance, and magic. Yet, their desire and struggle for independence has been costly, and today the nation lies in turmoil.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to share Christ with the Hazara and to help meet their physical needs.
* Pray that God will call doctors and nurses, construction volunteers, and agriculturists to Afghanistan.
* Pray that God will send Christian teachers and literacy workers who can minister to the Hazara.
* Ask God to protect medical and benevolent workers in Afghanistan.
* Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into the fields where the Hazara are located.
* Ask the Lord to help you learn more about the Hazara and what you can do to reach out to them.
* Pray that the Christians who live near and among the Hazara will be bold in sharing their faith in Jesus.