The Lisi of Chad
A Cluster of 3 Lisi Groups located in Chad
Lisi is a collective term used to describe three ethnic groups living in the same geographical region: the Kuka, the Bilala, and the Medogo. The groups speak similar languages, intermarry, share the same religion, and have similar traditions. They are located around Lake Fitri, Yao, and Oum Hadjer, in the Batha Prefecture of northern Chad. The Lisi are believed to be descendants of the main ethnic groups of the Yao sultanate.
During the 1400's, the state of Yao was founded by the Bilala. The culture and language of the Bilala, unlike those of the other groups, are of Arab origin. However, the Bilala have mixed so much with the Kuka and the Medogo over the centuries that they are included as a Lisi subgroup. In fact, they now speak a Kuka dialect. All of the groups speak Sara-Baguirmi languages, which are mutually understandable. Arabic is also spoken as a trade language. During the 1600's, the Bilala conquered the Kuka and settled on their land. Today, they remain the largest and most politically dominant group.
What are their lives like?
Some of the Lisi combine farming with herding. They often have sheep, horses, camels, and a few cattle. Unlike most of their southern neighbors, the Lisi milk their animals and make butter. This task is performed by the women. Others also engage in small scale hunting and fishing. The men do the hunting, herding, and most of the fishing. The women do some fishing, help the men with the agricultural work, and gather forest produce. In addition, the women are responsible for performing all of the domestic duties such as preparing the meals, collecting the firewood, and caring for the children. The whole region of northern Chad has several local and regional markets. The men usually trade at the larger, regional markets in caravans, while the women engage in petty trade at the local markets near their villages.
The Lisi live in compact villages, each of which is run by a local chief or headman. The chief and the village elders are in charge of settling disputes between the villagers. The rural Lisi live in round huts which have mud-brick or mat walls and cone-shaped, thatch roofs. In the larger towns, the dwellings are also made of mud-brick, but they have flat roofs made of beaten earth. The villages consist of several fenced-in, rectangular compounds. Each compound contains a number of huts belonging to an extended family.
Polygyny (the practice of having multiple wives) is common among the Lisi. However, according to Islamic law, no man may have more than four wives. The first wife has a privileged status and is considered the "chief" among the others. Each additional wife has her own hut where her children will live with her until they are old enough to live on their own.
A young Lisi girl will live in her mother's hut until she is ready to marry. However, a boy will move out of his mother's hut as soon as he is old enough to build his own hut—usually when he reaches puberty. At this time, he also undergoes his initiation into manhood.
What are their beliefs?
Islam is a religion of works based on five basic teachings or "pillars." Muslims must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." They are also required to pray five times a day, give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.
What are their needs?
The Lisi are also in need of Christian resources in their own language. At the present time, there are no evangelistic tools such as Christian radio broadcasts, Bibles, or literature available to them. Although one missions agency is currently working among them, very little progress has been made. In fact, a majority of the Lisi have never yet had an opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel.
Additional laborers, Christian broadcasts, and evangelistic literature are greatly needed to effectively penetrate the Lisi 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 Gospel as it is presented to them.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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