Photo Source: ABS
Map Source: Bethany World Prayer Center
|People Name:||Berber, Southern Shilha|
|Christian Adherents:||0.09 %|
|Online Audio NT:||No|
|Affinity Bloc:||Arab World|
The Southern Shilha Berbers are one of many groups of Berbers. The Berbers are a North African people group who were conquered by Muslim invaders in the seventh century. The name Berber, which is derived from the Latin word "barbarian," was given to them by the Romans in the third century A.D. Today, the term 'Berber' refers to any native speaker of one of the Berber languages. The Shilha speak Tachelhit, which is divided into three dialects. Most refer to themselves as the Imazighen, which means "men of noble origin." Arab Muslims conquered the Berber homeland between 670 and 700 A.D. However, their influence was limited and the Shilha and other Berber tribes have managed to sustain and preserve their own language, culture, customs, and social organization. To this day, the various Berber tribes in North Africa straddle their own and the dominant Arabic cultures. Berbers are generally bilingual, speaking both their Berber dialect and Arabic. Marrakech, the former capital of Morocco, is a key commercial center for the Southern Shilha. Though most Shilhas live in Morocco, some are in neighboring Algeria. Their home is in the Atlas Mountains. There is also a community of Southern Shilhas in France.
The Southern Shilha use their scarce soil and water resources with great care. On plots that are not regularly irrigated, they plant wheat, barley and sometimes rye in either autumn or spring. Other plots, situated mainly in the valleys, are irrigated regularly by simple dams. They are able to get two crops per year from these plots. On the lower slopes, herds of sheep and goats graze; but in summer the whole Shilha family may accompany the flocks to the high mountain pastures. Villagers sell their surplus farm and livestock products at the weekly markets in order to buy commodities as sugar and tea. Various Shilha communities cooperate with one another by allowing for reciprocal grazing rights, which solidifies family alliances. City men and women often wear western clothing, sometimes accompanied by a long-hooded robe called a jellaba. Southern Shilha men wear turbans or skull caps called tagiyas. Rural women are colorfully but modestly dressed, wearing several layers of clothing. They rarely wear veils, but the married women always wear head scarves. Some of the women also have facial tattoos. In the villages, their way of life has remained unchanged over the centuries. Most Shilha villages contain between 50 and 500 people. They typically live in two-story, mud brick homes with flat roofs. In the more rugged mountain areas they live in sturdy goat skin tents. The Southern Shilha don't really value education because they believe that hard work is of higher value. Only a small number complete more than a few years of public schooling. In rural areas, however, many male children attend Islamic schools where they are taught the Koran. Family ties are very important to the Southern Shilha. A typical family consists of close relatives living under the authority of the male head of the home. A new bride, often as young as 14, will move into the home of the husband's family after marriage.
Although they accepted Islam as a new religion, the Southern Shilha Berbers also maintained their pre-Islamic cultural and ritual traditions. The acceptance of Islam and the adoption of Arabic ways never completely erased Berber culture. Although they are nominally Sunni Muslims, most Southern Shilhas have little knowledge of the practices of the Koran and other dimensions of Orthodox Islam. For example, Berber men often use verses from the Koran as part of their protective amulets. The concept of baraka, or holiness, is highly developed in North Africa. The Southern Shilha Berbers believe that many people are endowed with baraka, of which the holiest are the shurifa, or the direct descendants of Mohammed. They also have great respect for marabouts, Muslim holy men who teach and are usually scholars in the Koran.
Southern Shilha 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.
Pray for Southern Shilha Berbers to put their faith and hope in Christ, paving the way for a Disciple Making Movement. Pray for a spiritual hunger among Southern Shilha Berbers that will lead them to the cross and the empty grave. Pray for loving workers to go to the Southern Shilha and find persons of peace who will welcome them into their communities with the gospel.