Maraqo in Ethiopia

Photo Source:  Anonymous 
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Maraqo
Country: Ethiopia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 145,000
World Population: 145,000
Primary Language: Libido
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 29.00 %
Evangelicals: 12.34 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Omotic
Affinity Bloc: Horn of Africa Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Maraqo of Ethiopia are located in the central part of the country in the Gurage region. Their language, also called Libido, is a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family. The Maraqo are close neighbors to both the Oromo and the Somali, and it is assumed that their lifestyles and cultures are very similar.

Ethiopia was one of the first Christian nations, having been introduced to Christianity in the fourth century. Today, more than half the population of the country is Christian. However, like other northern groups, the Maraqo converted to Islam and are presently almost completely Muslim. Islam continues to gain strength among the different groups in Ethiopia by penetrating Christian areas and offering mosque building programs. Two great waves of persecution of Christians occurred from 1936-1941 and 1974-1990. Though the persecution refined and purified the Church, there were many martyrs.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Maraqo traditionally lived as warriors. Today, however, they are primarily herdsmen. Within their tribe, a man's status is determined by the amount of livestock he owns. Virility and other masculine attributes are considered desirable, with bravery and war being stressed. Riding, spear throwing, and fighting are also emphasized. Although warfare against enemies is honored, peace within the group is demanded.

Most of the Maraqo live in rural areas where they make a living mainly from raising animals and some farming. However, a small number of the Maraqo have settled in the towns, attracted by employment opportunities and modern schooling facilities. Others have entered the national security forces, the small industrial labor force, and the fields of trade, transportation, and education.

The typical Maraqo dwelling is a tukal, a circular hut made of acacia branches covered with grass mats. The cone-shaped roof has an opening that allows smoke to escape. The staple diet of the Maraqo includes durra (a cereal grain), maize, beans, rice, milk, meat, and wild fruits. Coffee and tea are popular beverages.

The Maraqo live as nuclear families (a husband, his wife, and their children). The family is headed by an authoritarian father who has the right to expect total obedience. Men usually have only one wife, and children are considered a necessity. The more children and grandchildren a man has, the greater his prestige.

Young Maraqo boys are trained to become warriors. They are taught at an early age how to use spears. Traditionally, men ready to marry were expected to present to their brides part of a man who they had killed. The killing of a man was customarily a part of becoming a full-fledged adult as well as part of certain festivals. Although this tradition survives, wild animals are now used instead of humans.

A basic value of the Maraqo is tokuma, or identification with the group. Cooperation is central to this system, especially in work arrangements. The Maraqo have a reputation for being easygoing and sociable. They value hospitality and almsgiving, but more to relatives and friends than to strangers.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The majority of the Maraqo are Sunni Muslims. Before their conversion to Islam, they were animistic (believing that non-human objects have spirits) and involved in a variety of worship practices. The belief that objects such as trees, springs, and rocks have indwelling spirits is still prevalent. It is further believed that certain spirits, or jinnis, may take possession of people.

Fasting during Ramadan (Muslim holy month) is observed by most of the Maraqo adults. However, the celebration of other Muslim festivals is limited to self-selected men who gather to read and chant verses from the Koran.

What Are Their Needs?

The Maraqo do not have any Christian resources in their own language. Leadership training and discipleship of new believers is critical if Church growth among the Maraqo is to continue.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to call additional laborers to join the few who are already working among the Maraqo.
Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Maraqo.
Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Maraqo believers as they share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Maraqo church for the glory of His name!

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center