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Afar, Djibouti

Country: Djibouti
People: Afar
Population: 416,000
World Population: 2,495,000
Main Language: Afar
Main Religion: Islam
Bible: None
Status: Unreached
Christ-Followers: Less than 1%

Introduction / History
The Afar (Danakil) claim to be descendants of Noah’s son – Ham. They are located in the East African countries of Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. The Afar of Djibouti live either along the coastline bordering Ethiopia and Somalia, or in a portion of the Danakil Desert that stretches across Ethiopia into Eritrea. Djibouti is sometimes called “a valley of hell” because it has one of the hottest, driest climates in the world.

The Danakil prefer to be known as the Afar, since the Arabic word danakil is an offensive term to them. The Afar consist of two sub-groups: the Asaemara (“red ones”), who are the more prestigious and powerful nobles living along the coast; and the Adaemara (“white ones”), who are the commoners living primarily in the mountains and the desert. The Danakil are a proud people, emphasizing a man’s strength and bravery. Prestige comes from killing one’s enemies.

What are Their Lives Like?
Most of the Afar are nomads who herd sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. Some of the Asaemara living on the coast are fishermen. A man’s wealth, however, is measured by the size of his herds. The women are responsible for tending the sheep, cows, and goats, and for looking after the camp. The men care for the camels and donkeys, and take down the camp when it is time to move.

Although some Muslims are permitted to have four wives, Afar marriages are usually monogamous. Girls may marry as early as age ten. Marriages between first cousins are preferred, particularly between a man and his father’s sister’s daughter. The night of the full moon is favored for a wedding ceremony, and the presence of someone able to read the Koran is required.

Meat and milk are the major components of the Afar diet. Milk is also an important social “offering”. For instance, when a guest is given fresh warm milk to drink, the host is implying that he will provide immediate protection for the guest. If a person is killed while under the protection of an Afar, his death must be avenged as if he were a member of the clan.

The Afar live in camps surrounded by thorn barricades, which protect them from the attacks of wild animals or enemy tribesmen. Their oval-shaped huts, called ari, are made of palm mats and are easily moved. Market day is important to the Danakil. Some travel great distances to sell cattle, camels, goats, sheep, butter, and straw mats. In turn, they buy items such as coffee, sugar, matches, and soap.

What are Their Beliefs?
Early in their history, the Afar were heavily influenced by the Islamic religion; and today, Islam is still held in great esteem. The people do not eat pork and rarely drink alcohol. Those who can afford to do so, make a pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition, many pre-Islamic beliefs and customs are also prevalent among the Danakil. They believe that certain trees and groves have sacred powers. They also have various religious rites such as anointing their bodies with ghee (a type of butter). Spirits of the dead are believed to be very powerful, and a “feast of the dead”, called Rabena, is celebrated each year. They also give annual offerings to the sea to ensure safety for their villages. Many people wear protective leather amulets that contain herbs and verses from the Koran.

What are Their Needs?
One of the most serious problems in Djibouti is drought. Unfortunately, there is a lack of industry and natural resources to combat the problem.

Currently, the region is also under much political pressure. Since Djibouti gained its independence in 1977, tension between the Somali and the Danakil has increased. The Somalians feel the loss of a missing colony; Djibouti contains a vital part of the railway line that links Ethiopia to the outside world. Hence, both want control of the region.

The few Afar who have converted to Christianity are isolated. They are also pressured by their relatives to return to Islam. They need the Holy Spirit’s strength to hold onto their faith in Christ.

Prayer Points
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth additional laborers into Djibouti.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are focusing on the Afar.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to this tribe.
* Pray for the small number of Afar believers and ask God to give them opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Afar church for the glory of His name!

Kazakh, Czech Republic

Country: Czech Republic
People: Kazakh
Population: 1,990
World Population:13,787,000
Main Language: Kazakh
Main Religion: Islam
Bible: None
Status: Unreached
Christ-Followers: None

Introduction / History
The Kazakh, a Turkic people, are the second largest Muslim people group of Central Asia. In times past, they may have been the most influential of the various Central Asian ethnic groups. While most of the Kazakh now live in Kazakhstan, they make up less than half of the country’s population. Large communities can also be found in Mongolia, Ukraine, and Russia.

The Kazakh developed a distinct ethnic identity in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Several of their clans formed a federation that would provide mutual protection. As other clans joined the federation, its political influence began to take on an ethnic character. During the nineteenth century, the Russians acquired Central Asia through a steady process of annexation. They eventually claimed the entire territory of Kazakhstan. Tragically, about half of the Kazakh population was killed during the Russian Civil War of the 1920′s and 1930′s. During this time, many fled to China and Mongolia.

What are Their Lives Like?
Since the collapse of Soviet Communism, the Kazakh have been searching for their identity. Traditionally, they were nomadic shepherds; however, under Soviet rule, much of their land was seized and used for collective farming. As industry developed, their economy and culture became dependent entirely on the Russians. Today, however, there is a widespread movement to redevelop their own cultural identity.

As nomadic shepherds, the Kazakh lived in dome shaped felt tents called yurts. These portable dwellings could be taken down and moved from area to area as the shepherd found good land for his flocks. Under Russian rule, many other Kazakhs were forced to move to the cities and live in houses or small apartments. Most of these two or three room apartments have running water, though in some rural areas there is no hot water. The water is clean, but not safe to drink. The process of purifying the water can be very tedious.

The Kazakh eat a variety of meat and dairy products. A popular Kazakh food is besbarmak, which is eaten with your hands. It is made of noodles, potatoes, onions, and mutton. Rice and bread are common staples. In the southern regions of Kazakhstan, fruit and vegetables grow in abundance. There the people enjoy eating grapes, melons, and tomatoes. Kazakh apples are also famous throughout Central Asia.

The foundation of the Kazakh culture is hospitality, which always starts with a cup of tea. The host offers tea to any person who comes to his house. Guests must accept the kindness, or the host will be offended.

A favorite sport is kokpar which means “fighting for a goat’s carcass.” Up to 1000 horseman will participate in this sport.

What are Their Beliefs?
The Kazakhs embraced Islam during the sixteenth century and still consider themselves Muslim today. Changes in Kazakh society (mainly from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle) and an attempt by the Soviets to suppress religious freedoms have led the people to adopt Islam more closely. However, their Islamic practices have been combined with traditional folk religions.

Traditional Kazakh folk religion includes beliefs in spirits. They practice animism and ancestor worship. Animism is the belief that non-human objects have spirits. Ancestor worship involves praying and offering sacrifices to deceased ancestors. Today, the Kazakh continue to consult shamans (priests who cure the sick by magic, communicate with the spirits, and control events). They also practice various traditional rituals before and after marriage, at birth, and at death.

What are Their Needs?
The Kazakh are facing ecological catastrophe due to the mismanagement of natural resources. This has caused the near desolation of the Aral Sea and contamination of much of their drinking water. As a result, the infant mortality rate is very high. There is also a high rate of stillbirths and birth defects. Abortion is their main method of birth control. Most women have five or six abortions. Because Kazakhs value children, this creates a serious emotional battle for Kazakh parents.

The Kazakh church is young, but the church is growing. Young people are especially excited about hearing the Good News of the Gospel. Over 40 Kazakh speaking churches exist, but in a people group of over eight million, that is a small number. Many churches are located in the major cities like Almaty, but Christian workers are also needed in the rural areas.

Since at least 2011, in the name of curbing extremism, religion laws in violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Kazakhstan Constitution require churches to register and various local governments have been banning religious groups that have less than 50 members, confiscating literature, and fining groups that have violated these religion laws. As of October 2012, a third of all religious groups have been reportedly shut down. Unregistered Protestant groups, which seem to be particularly targeted, have been forced underground, but even then the government has sought to crack down on such groups by raiding the homes where these groups have been meeting.

As of March 2013, proposed changes to the criminal code threaten to imprison the leaders of unregistered religious groups. Christians have also been targeted since January 2013 for distributing religious literature on the streets or for otherwise sharing their faith.

Prayer Points
* Praise God for the growing number of Kazakh Christians. Pray that they would learn the Word of God quickly.
* Pray that there would be fresh leadership training materials prepared in the Kazakh language for pastors.
* Pray for salvation for heads of families as the Gospel is clearly presented to them.
* Ask the Lord to send long term laborers to live among the Kazak and share the love of Christ with them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the Kazak towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Muslim Kazak who have converted to Christianity.
* Pray that these converts will begin to boldly share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kazak.

Malay, Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Country: Malaysia
People: Malay
Population: 420
World Population: 7,100
Main Language: Malay
Main Religion: Islam
Bible: None
Status: Unreached
Christ-Followers: None

Introduction / History
The Cocos Islands (sometimes referred to as the Keeling Islands) are a group of 27 coral atolls in the Indian Ocean to the northwest of Australia. British Naval Captain William Keeling is believed to have discovered these islands in 1609 but it would be the 19th century before the islands would become populated. The islands were annexed by the United Kingdom in 1857 and were transferred into Australian control in 1955. Only two of the islands are inhabited with West Island housing ethnic Europeans and Home Island being home to ethnic Malays. Despite knowledge of the islands for over 200 years, it was not until the early nineteenth century that they were settled. Initially, the islands were considered valuable due to their location on a trade route from Europe to the Far East. Later, they would become vital due to military operations outposts for support of allied countries in WW2.

Where are they Located?
The 27 coral islands are arranged in something like a horseshoe shape and are located in the Indian Ocean to the northwest of Australia. The land area of the two inhabited islands (West and Home) is approximately 8.5 miles in total.

What are Their Lives Like?
The climate of the Cocos Islands is tropical with high humidity. Trade winds buffer the temperatures slightly for much of the year. The tropical cyclone season runs from October through April. The population of the inhabited islands is around 600. The islands are flat coral atolls with little arable land. Only small amounts food is grown locally, however, coconuts are plentiful. Freshwater is obtained by collecting rainwater in underground reservoirs. Most of the people of the Cocos Islands (Home Island) are of Malayan descent with small numbers of people having ancestors from China, Papua, Africa, and the East Indies. The Malaya live primarily on Home Island. The society that exists today has been held together for eight generations by its isolation, shared economic endeavors, strong family loyalty, a deepening commitment to Islamic religion, and their unique version of the old Malay language of the East Indies. Few outsiders have lived among them and little has been recorded about their cultural and traditional practices. Despite their disparate origins, the Cocos Malay people achieved an identity of their own within one generation of settlement. The “Cocos-born”, as they were officially referred to, lived separately from both the Javanese contract laborers and the European owner-settlers. They had their own mosques, their own leaders, and their own ceremonies. Today the cornerstone of the Cocos Malay society and the focus of each individual’s life is the Islamic religion. Few depart from its teachings and observances. Despite their self-imposed isolation, elements of the English-Scottish traditions of the early overseeing families have been absorbed into Cocos Malay cultural practices. Certain foods, dances and musical influences have a western flavor. Throughout each year, a large number of ceremonies are held at various houses in the community for a wide range of family celebrations. These include house blessings, welcomes, farewells, boat launchings, remembrances of deceased relatives, circumcisions, Koran readings and other family events. The most significant celebration of the year for the Cocos Malay people is Hari Raya Puasa, the day that marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The Cocos Malay people have shown a remarkable flair for adaptation despite their desire for isolation by accepting new cultural elements and blending them with traditions of their own. Several items to keep in mind when encountering the Cocos Malay people are to dress conservatively out of respect to the Muslim community, remove shoes when entering a house or mosque, enter a house at the backdoor unless the front door is propped open, use the right hand for eating, greeting, or serving, and refrain from touching anyone on the head. West Island is much more western in its customs and culture. Typical resort dress is common there. West Island is much more modern with western amenities available and tourism common. West Island offers several options for accommodation with multi-unit bungalows and motels located near the heart of the modest business district. Each location offers quick access to the beach. Four TV channels, three radio stations, telephone service, electricity, and air conditioning are available. At some locations on the island, internet and mobile telephone service are available along with DVD players, fax, and copy machines. There is one airport, several paved roads, and many dirt paths servicing the islands. The Australian Dollar is the currency and most major credit cards are accepted and encouraged. There is little opportunity to exchange currency on the islands. It is best to exchange currency prior to visiting the islands. Australian government and law are the basis for order in the islands. There is a small police force and the islands are not involved in any international conflict.

What are Their Beliefs?
The island people are primarily of the Sunni Muslim faith and speak Malay and English. Three mosques are known to exist but no information about houses of worship of other faiths could found.

What are Their Needs?
The Cocos Islands need Christian missionaries skilled in outreach to Muslims. With a small amount of tourism existing on West Island, outreach to people of other religions is also possible. Opportunities to help with medical and dental services are also available to missions-minded people.

Prayer Points
* Pray for God to give an opportunity for Biblical Christianity to be proclaimed on these islands.
* Pray for local converts to be prepared for ministry unto their neighbors.
* Pray for their protection and provision while they engage in spiritual warfare

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