Nuristani, Ashkuni in Afghanistan

Nuristani, Ashkuni
Send Joshua Project a photo
of this people group.
Send Joshua Project a map of this people group.
People Name: Nuristani, Ashkuni
Country: Afghanistan
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 52,000
World Population: 52,000
Primary Language: Ashkun
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Unspecified
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Nuristan
Affinity Bloc: Persian-Median
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Ethnically, the Nuristani peoples cluster embraces eight groups. Often, a language spoken in one valley is largely unintelligible to a near neighbor in another. None of their languages are in written form and their literacy rate in other languages is very low. Oral traditions testify to longstanding interaction between groups through the centuries despite language barriers. Geographically, as early inhabitants of the Nuristani region in northeast Afghanistan, most still reside there.

The Nuristani peoples have lived the same way for hundreds of years. Their ancestors were very good at fending off invaders. For over 800 years they held out against the Muslim tide that threatened to sweep into their valleys. Traditional prestige was marked by how many Muslims a young man killed in raids. But in 1895-96 these valleys were conquered and were forcibly converted to Islam. The numerically dominant Muslims changed their name from infidels to "Ashkuni," that is "Land of the Light."

What Are Their Lives Like?

Perched high on steep mountainsides, Ashkuni villages maintain an ancient adjustment to difficult circumstances. Mountain trails are not suitable even for mules, and one must walk almost everywhere. Villages range from 30 to 300 households surrounded by terraced fields fed by miles of tortuous irrigation channels.

Located in 5 main valley systems with a number of tributaries, each drainage area speaks its own dialect (Kati, Waiqali, Ashuni, Paruni). Suspicious of outsiders, even Ashkuni from a few miles away, everything is regulated by village level consensus based on centuries of experience that have ensured survival. Strict rules enforced by public opinion and an elected village group specify the order in which fields are irrigated and when the men must move goats and sheep to different pastures.

Until a few years ago, the way to gain status in the highly competitive Ashkuni society was to stage a raid or give a feast. Today, raids have been replaced by oratory since Ashkuni culture also respects skillful public speakers. Ashkunis also like to be known for honesty, impartiality, and wisdom. An Ashkuni who is considered successful possesses several sons, many goats, and a generous nature.

In 1970, gospel recording teams discovered 26 distinct Ashkuni dialects as they visited the isolated valleys and mountains of Nuristan. During the Russian invasion, Afghan refugees flooded into Pakistan. Believers brought them food, tents and clothing. These workers also used gospel recordings effectively with Ashkunis who stayed in their own tribal groups in the refugee camps. Although there were no known Ashkuni believers in the camps many were prepared to believe in the Savior.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Sunni Islam triumphed in these mountain villages in the late 19th century. Each village is made up of several named wards, each with its own mosque and its own leader who acts to mediate disputes and to deal with the government.

There is no known evangelism taking place in the area and none would be openly permitted in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Across the border in Pakistan, some of the animistic Kafirs are beginning to respond to the gospel. Pray that as they come to know Jesus as Savior, they will reach out to their Muslim cousins in Afghanistan.

What Are Their Needs?

The Ashkuni people need to accept the warm embrace of the only Savior so they can enjoy life to the full, as Jesus promised in John 10:10.

Prayer Points

Pray for the authority of Christ to bind hindering spiritual forces to lead them from darkness to light.

Pray for signs and wonders among them and for great breakthroughs with a rapid multiplication of disciples and house churches.

Pray for bold workers who are driven by the love of the Holy Spirit to go to them.

Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.

Text Source:   Joshua Project