Have you heard of the Ghana Empire? It existed from 750 to 1240 AD in West Africa. The Soninke people were the founders and rulers of the Ghana Empire. When the empire ended, the Soninke were scattered across West Africa including the nation of Senegal. The Soninke make up only about two percent of the population of Senegal. Senegal gained its independence from France in 1960. Since that time Senegal has been relatively politically stable compared to the surrounding West African nations. The presidency has been peaceably transferred to another leader following elections. That is not common in West Africa. Senegal has been open to foreign investment especially from France and the USA. Most Soninke live in the east central part of Senegal near the Malian and Mauritanian borders though they also live in other places in West Africa.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Their main occupations are agriculture, animal husbandry and trade. The social structure and organization of the Soninke are typical of Mande-related people groups. They are farmers who raise sorghum, rice, peanuts, and their staple crop, millet. They also raise large numbers of goats, sheep, horses, chickens, and cattle. They do very little fishing and hunting, and trade is extremely important. The Soninke trade in the local markets. They also travel to markets in other regions to trade their goods. 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 located 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 and becomes part of her dowry. They forbid pre-marital sexual relations but accept polygamy (having more than one wife), with each man being limited to four wives by Islamic law. In the past, inheritances were passed down from fathers to 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 often receive at best primary education.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Soninke in Senegal are Sunni Muslims heavily influenced by folk religion, a belief in 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 that 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 are also prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, using deceit, slandering, and making idols. 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.
What Are Their Needs?
Among all the Soninke in Senegal, there are few if any followers of Christ. Those who put their faith in Christ will suffer persecution. Therefore, evangelizing is extremely difficult. Most Soninke have not yet heard a clear presentation of the gospel in their heart language.
Pray the Lord provides trained pastors and Bible teachers for the Soninke church. Pray that the tiny group of believers would be strong in the faith and share the gospel with family and friends. Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among the Soninke of Senegal in this decade. Ask the Lord to send forth laborers into Senegal to share the good news with the Soninke.
Tambacounda region: (Kinxenna dialect), along Senegal river south bank, Koudi area; Matam region: Kanel district; Kolda region: north of Velingara. 42 villages, Bakel, Ouaoundé, Moudéri, and Yaféra are principal towns.
Tambacounda region: (Kinxenna dialect), along Senegal river south bank, Koudi area; Matam region: Kanel district; Kolda region: north of Velingara. 42 villages, Bakel, Ouaoundé, Moudéri, and Yaféra are principal towns..
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