The Gadames Berber of Libya
The Gadames are one of many groups of Berbers. The Berbers are a people group from North Africa who were conquered by the Muslims in the seventh century. The name "Berber" was given them by the Romans and is derived from the Latin word meaning "barbarians."
More than 4,000 Gadames live in Libya near the Algerian-Tunisian border. It is a walled, oasis town with a central market place and narrow streets.
Historically, this town has always been important because ancient writings from several cultures have been found there. Among these are Greek engravings as well as other inscriptions from Roman times.
The Gadames speak a language similar to their Berber cousins living in Egypt and other neighboring countries.
Bilingualism is common among the Gadames, many speaking both Arabic and Ghudamis, their native tongue.
What are their lives like?
The male Gadames makes a living by farming, but women are considered somewhat inferior and only work in the house. Their principal crop is the date, but they also grow barley, wheat, and sorghum. They own camels, donkeys, sheep, goats, and chickens, but no horses and very few dogs. They are also skillful in crafts, leather work being their most notable. They sell these and other goods at local weekly markets. They also travel by caravan to markets in neighboring areas.
Typically, the Gadames live in rectangular houses that are three to four stories high, with flat roofs and whitewashed walls. Each town is governed by a sheik, a council of leading businessmen, a religious leader, and a judge.
The men wear veils that are similar to those worn by the Tuareg, a nomadic Berber group.
The Gadames society is patrilineal, which means that the line of decent is passed down through the males. When a couple decides to marry, a price is paid for the bride. She then goes to live in the home of her husband.
Gadames society is divided into two rival Berber tribes. Each group claims to be descendants of the town's founding fathers. They live in different quarters of the city and do not associate with each other.
What are their beliefs?
Prior to the seventh century, the Berbers had successfully resisted foreign invasions of Islam. However, with the Arab conquests of the seventh century, the Berbers were shattered. Some fled or were driven into the desert, while others submitted, becoming arabized in language and, to some extent, racially mixed. All embraced
Islam, the majority being Sunni Muslims.
Sunni Muslims are one of the two great sects of Islam, and accept the teachings and practices of Mohammed.
Although the Gadames follow the Islamic fundamentals, there is still much intermingling with existing pagan beliefs. Consequently, Islam in North Africa is somewhat different from Islam in the Middle East. For example, Orthodox Sunnis do not celebrate some of the main Muslim festivals. Also, the concept of baraka, or holiness, is highly developed in North Africa. The Gadames believe that many people are endowed with baraka, of which the holiest are the shurifa, or the direct descendants of Mohammed.
Another class of holy people is known as the marabouts. Among some of the Berbers, the marabouts are considered to be different from ordinary men. They are believed to possess the powers of protection and healing, even after death.
What are their needs
The Gadames have never been successfully penetrated with the Gospel. There are no mission agencies currently working among this people. Only portions of the Bible have been translated into their language, and there are no Christian broadcasts available to them in their language. Among the 99.9% Gadames Muslims, there are only two known believers.
- Ask God to call people who are willing to go to Libya and share the Gospel with the Gadames.
- Pray that the Lord will raise up missionaries who are sensitive to the culture of this group and can effectively disciple new converts.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Gadames Christians.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Gadames so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of Libya's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Gadames by the year 2000.
- Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Gadames Berbers of Libya.
See also the following Groups:
The Saharan Berbers;
The Riff Berbers of Morocco,
The Central Shilhah of Algeria,
and the Berbaber of France;
The Southern Shilhah of Algeria and
The Kabyle Berbers of Algeria,
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Gadames Berber
- Country: Libya
- Their language: Ghudamis
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 2
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: None
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 500 (10%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 4,300 (90%)
- Country: Libya
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 16
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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