The Pomaks of Europe
A Cluster of 3 Pomak Groups in 3 countries
The Pomaks are a Slavic people who live in the Balkan region of southern Europe. They are usually considered to be a type of Bulgarian since they speak a Bulgarian dialect, have Bulgarian features, and have cultural practices similar to the Bulgarians. They are distinguished, however, by their non-Bulgarian names and their devotion to Islam, rather than to Orthodox Christianity. The Pomaks probably converted to Islam in the 1370's. Tradition says that they did not voluntarily accept Islam, but were forced to do so. As time went by, they gradually began to adopt various Muslim customs, such as the veiling of women.
Although most of the Pomaks live in Bulgaria, about 30,000 live across the border in the Greek provinces of Thrace and Macedonia, and others are found in Romania. In addition to speaking Rhodope (Bulgarski), some of the Pomaks have adopted Macedonian or Greek as a second language. For many years, they lived isolated from other peoples of the area. However, during the last century, modernization has forced them to come into contact with the outside world.
What are their lives like?
The Pomak farmers live in rural villages that are surrounded by their fields and pastures. Most of the people live in two-story dwellings. The upper floor is used as living quarters, while the lower floor serves as a stable for the animals. The houses were traditionally constructed of stone, wood, and clay, with sloping slate roofs. Recently, however, some Pomaks have begun to build homes out of brick or cinder block, with ceramic tile roofs.
Traditionally, Pomak marriages are arranged between the families of the prospective bride and groom. The wedding occurs when the couple reaches their mid- to late teens. Before marriage, the bride prepares her own dowry, which consists of household items and clothing. Although Islamic law allows a man to have as many as four wives, polygamy was never frequent among the Pomaks, and is currently prohibited by Greek law.
The Pomaks living in Greece face discrimination and persecution, and are often deprived of legal rights. Many have had their land taken without any form of compensation, and freedom of movement is restricted. They generally cannot buy land and are unable to get government jobs or business licenses. Greece denies Muslims passports, and if a Pomak travels abroad without one, he or she is not allowed back into the country.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
The Bible has not yet been translated into the Pomak dialect (Rhodope), though it is available in Bulgarian, Greek, and Macedonian. Unfortunately, there are no missions agencies working among the Pomaks at the present time.
Most of the Pomak believers (over 700) live in Bulgaria. However, this only represents a tiny 1% of the entire Pomak population in that area. There are no known Pomak Christians in Greece or Romania. A large majority of them have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.
Sensitive Christian missionaries, Christian radio and television broadcasts, and evangelistic literature are greatly needed to effectively penetrate the Pomaks with the Gospel. Most importantly, they need people who will begin to faithfully intercede for them, tearing down the strongholds that are keeping them in spiritual bondage. Only then will their hearts be prepared to receive the Good News as it is presented to them.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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