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Introduction / History
The Soninke are a major people spread across at least seven countries in West Africa.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Historically, the Soninke have been traveling traders. They established one of the first Soninke settlements in Ghana around A.D. 750. Because of persecution by the Berbers, the Soninke dispersed into small groups throughout at least seven West African nations. The three main sub-groups of the Soninke are the Marka, Nono, and Azer. Often, these tribes are further broken into smaller clans that specialize in various crafts. Four of the most important Soninke tribes are the Sisse, Drame, Sylla, and Kante. Some of these groups eventually intermixed with the local Wolof, Serer, and Malinke tribes.
With the increasing difficulty of farming resulting from the desertification of their land, the Soninke have increasingly turned to travel and work outside of their area. They have maintained an above average standard of living and are relatively rich. Despite being so well traveled, the Soninke have held fast to their traditional ways.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Soninke live in compact villages surrounded by their farm and grazing lands. Houses line both sides of the main street, and a mosque is typically at the village square.
Soninke marriages require the payment of a bride-price. In contrast to most neighboring tribes, the bride-price is given to the bride rather than her parents. It becomes part of her dowry. They forbid pre-marital sexual relations but accept polygamy (having over one wife), with each man being limited to four wives by Islamic law. In the past, fathers passed inheritances to their sons. Muslim rules govern the dispersion of property: one-eighth goes to the widow, while equal shares go to each son and half shares go to each daughter. Soninke parents encourage their sons to pursue a secondary and university education while the daughters receive, at best, a primary education.
Soninke people in Guinea-Bissau are Sunni Muslims heavily influenced by folk religion, a belief in the power of natural spirits. The Soninke try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. Sunnis believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam, they will attain heaven when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Sunnis pray five times a day facing Mecca. They fast the month of Ramadan. They attend mosque services on Friday. If a Muslim has the means, he or she will make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her lifetime. Muslims must not drink alcohol, eat pork, gamble, steal, deceive, slander, or make idols.
What Are Their Needs?
The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. Friday is the day of rest, with Soninke attending their local mosque for prayer.
As farming becomes more difficult in the ever-extending desert, the Soninke are finding additional sources of income to replace farming. Health care is a great need. Spiritually, there are very few Soninke people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ no matter where they live.
Pray for the Lord to provide the Soninke people a miraculously large harvest as a testimony of his power and mercy.
Pray for abundant rain in their West African homeland.
Pray for Holy Spirit driven workers to go to the Soninke people in Guinea-Bissau.
Pray for a movement to Christ that will bless the Soninke people's families, crops and spiritual lives.
Pray for spiritual openness to Christ among the Soninke people in Guinea-Bissau.
Scripture Prayers for the Soninke in Guinea-Bissau.