Imazighen Berber in France

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

In North Africa, the Berbers earn their livelihood from the fig and olive trees that cover the mountain slopes. They are divided by subgroup, yet the generic term that they prefer is Imazighen, meaning, "Free men." Freedom and independence is a high goal of these people, who are much better known as Berbers, which originally referred to Barbarians during the days of the Roman Empire. They supplement their income through job opportunities in major cities of Europe such as Paris and Marseilles. Such jobs lure up to one-third of the male population for most of the year. For some, service in the army and in the factories of France during World War I was an avenue of migration. When the war ended, many remained in France. Others arrived after World War II when there was a labor shortage in France. Decades of immigration have left a large Berber community in France. Some of these are from the Rif subgroup while others are Imazighen.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Some Berbers went as merchants since France is one of the most important trading partners with North Africa. There are many cab drivers in Paris who are Imazighen Berbers. Other Berber groups have family-owned grocery and produce stores in urban France. As the number of immigrants in France increased, so did various kinds of problems with housing and unemployment. Initially, the immigrants were males who lived in low-standard hostels and worked at low-paying jobs such as construction, street cleaning, mining, or heavy work in steel assembly. With the beginning of economic stress in 1974, many French began to reclaim these jobs; thus, the government began to restrict immigration. This situation has fluctuated a couple of times depending on France's need for cheap labor and the needs of North Africans to leave their country because of economic or political instability. In the Berber family, as many as three or four generations live together in one small room, sharing everything. The father is the head of the family, and ancestry is traced through the males. The family structure is somewhat of an authoritarian democracy. While the father is responsible for controlling all household matters, he must obtain the agreement of the rest of the family as well. Banishment from the family is considered the ultimate punishment. The secular environment in France has left the Berbers, as well as other Muslim peoples, looking inward. They do not want their children to grow up secularized, abandoning the Muslim religion.

There are some who are making an active effort to achieve recognition of the Moroccan Imazighen identity, but other are happy to live and mix with Arabs.
What Are Their Beliefs?

Although the Imazighen are almost completely Muslim, they still retain many of their traditional beliefs, such as saint worship. They usually celebrate the Muslim holidays, visiting friends and neighbors during these festive times. Weddings are lengthy celebrations that often last several days. In secularized France, these Muslims either become more secular, or they become more entrenched in the Islamic religious system.

What Are Their Needs?

Imazighen Berbers need the chance to put their identity in Jesus Christ and enjoy his blessings in this life and in the life to come. Someone needs to go to them with the life-changing gospel.

Prayer Points

Pray for a spiritual hunger among Imazighen Berbers that will lead them to the cross and the empty grave. Pray for Imazighen Berbers in France to put their faith and hope in Christ, paving the way for a Disciple Making Movement. Pray for workers to go to Imazighen leaders and find persons of people who will welcome them into their communities with the gospel of peace.

Scripture Prayers for the Berber, Imazighen in France.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Berber, Imazighen
People Name in Country Berber, Imazighen
Natural Name Imazighen Berber
Pronunciation ee-MAH-zah-yen BUR-bur
Alternate Names Amazigh; Bekhti; Beraber; Berber; Berraber; Blue Berber; Central Shilha; Imazighen; Middle Atlas Berber; Shilha; Tamazight
Population this Country 161,000
Population all Countries 4,781,000
Total Countries 6
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 3
People ID 12217
ROP3 Code 104002
ROP25 Code 309189
ROP25 Name Berber, Shilha
Country France
Region Europe, Western
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Country France
Region Europe, Western
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.05 %)
0.20 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.80 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Tamazight, Central Atlas (161,000 speakers)
Language Code tzm   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Tamazight, Central Atlas (161,000 speakers)
Language Code tzm   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Tamazight, Central Atlas
Photo Source Tussna - Wikimedia  Creative Commons 
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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