The Hazara-Berberi of Iran
The Hazara Berberi are a people of Mongolian decent who immigrated from Afghanistan to Iran in the nineteenth century. The name "Hazara" originally referred to a fighting unit of 1,000 men. Today, it simply means "mountain tribe," and is used in reference to the mountain settlements of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
Of the estimated two million Hazara in the world, the vast majority live in Afghanistan. Approximately 98,000 live in Pakistan; and the remainder are scattered throughout the various mountain regions of the Middle East. The Hazara Berberi live primarily in the Iranian province of Khorasan, south of Mashhad. Others live in the rugged Elburz Mountains, just north of Tehran.
The approximate number of Hazara Berberi living in Iran today is just over 67,000. They traditionally lived as nomadic shepherds. Today, however, many have turned to farming as a means of survival.
What are their lives like?
The Hazara Berberi nomads originally immigrated to Iran in search of better pastures for their flocks. They also hoped to escape the consequences of a failed revolt against the Afghan government. In times past, the Hazara Berberi were primarily sheep and goat herders. Today, they have had to rely on farming as a supplement to their shepherding. Their main crops are wheat, barley, beans, and milk, which are the staples of their diet.
The Hazara Berberi are extremely poor, and many still live in a very primitive environment. This is especially true of the nomadic shepherds in the mountainous regions. Their living conditions consist of large tents in which whole families reside. Horseback is their main method of transportation. The more prominent Hazara Berberi live in villages with flat-roofed houses made of stone or mud. Today, due to increased poverty, many of the Hazara Berberi have migrated toward the cities seeking work as day laborers.
The Hazara Berberi prefer to marry first cousins on their father's side of the family (an Islamic tradition), and they seldom marry outsiders. When they do, they usually marry women from nearby Islamic tribes. However, the children of such marriages are not considered Hazara Berberi.
The common language of the Hazara Berberi is Hazaragi, a language that has been passed down for many generations. It is sometimes referred to as Afghan-Persian and it appears to be related to Dari, a language also spoken in the Middle East.
What are their beliefs?
The Hazara Berberi are virtually 100%
Muslim, divided into two sects of the Shi'ite order. The dominant sect is the Ithna Ashari, also known as "Twelvers." The second group is known as the Ismailis, or "Seveners." About 95% of the Berberi are Ithna Asharis, and the remainder are Ismailis. Strong negative feelings exist between the two groups.
The Hazara Berberi believe that the way to God is only found in the teachings of their holy book, the Koran. The Muslim religion is a religion of worksóbased specifically on the five basic teachings or "pillars." In order to attain heaven, one must adhere to these teachings. Muslims believe that there is only one god: Allah. They must pray five times a day, give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once their lifetime.
What are their needs?
The Hazara Berberi are considered one of the least evangelized ethnic groups in the Middle East. Unfortunately, they have been somewhat forgotten by Christian missionaries ever since their identification as a separate ethnic group.
There are only 34 known Hazara Berberi Christians. At the present, only one mission agency is targeting them. Until 1990, there were no known scripture translations in their native language, Hazaragi. In 1995, portions of the New Testament became available; however, the supply is very limited.
- Pray that the doors of Iran will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Iran and share Christ with the Hazara Berberi.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will protect and encourage the small number of believers.
- Ask God to raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into their language.
- Pray that God will raise up intercessors to stand in the gap for the Hazara Berberi.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give the missions agency strategies for reaching these precious Muslims with the Gospel.
- Pray that the Jesus film will soon be made available in Hazaragi.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Hazara Berberi by the year 2000.
See also the following Hazara Groups:
The Hazara of Pakistan; and
The Hazara of Afghanistan.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Hazara-Berberi
- Country: Iran
- Their language: Hazaragi
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 34
- Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 16,900 (25%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 50,400 (74%)
- Country: Iran
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 26
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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