The Burushas of Pakistan
No one knows the exact origin of the Burusho; however, according to legend, three soldiers from the army of Alexander the Great came and settled in the Hunza Valley around 300 BC. Another legend says that the Burusho were driven from northwestern India into Pakistan by Indo-Aryan invaders.
For hundreds of years the territory of Hunza was ruled by a mir, or prince. From 1892 until 1949 the British ruled this territory; however, in 1949 Pakistan gained control of Hunza when a truce made by the United Nations brought an end to the fighting between Pakistan and India. The mir was allowed to rule over local concerns until 1974, when Pakistan took over complete control.
Political oppression and the struggle for control have made life extremely difficult for the Burusho for many years.
What are their lives like?
Family ties are very important among the Burusho. The husband is the head of his household. The Burusho do not usually intermarry with other ethnic groups in the area, not even with the Hunza or Nagar Burusho.
Their houses are primarily built of concrete or stone and are not very warm during the winter months. Wood is scarce, so kerosene is often used for heating.
The Burusho eat a low protein diet which consists mainly of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Peaches, apricots, and nuts are among their favorites. They raise sheep, goats, and cattle for the milk and wool. Their chief industries include production of woolen cloth and dried apricots.
"Burushaski" is the spoken language of the Burusho people. Though this is their primary language, it is not yet a written language. Each of the three valleys (Hunza, Nagar, and Yasin) has a distinct dialect, with most similarities found between the Hunza and Nagar dialects. Urdu, which is the national language of Pakistan, is the secondary language of the Burusho.
What are their beliefs?
The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader for the Ismaili Muslims and is believed to be the only one who has the Holy Spirit. They also believe that he is in the world to lead and guide the people, that he is representative of God's speech and actions, and that he is the only one who can fully understand the Koran and God.
The Ismaili do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but rather that He was simply a great prophet. Since Christians are accepted as their "spiritual relatives," the Burusho have no hostility toward them. They are even open to discussions about God and do not discourage Bible reading. The Shia, however, are not as open to the Gospel.
Less than .03% of the Burusho are Christians and there are no churches in the Burusho territory.
What are their needs?
Education is highly favored, especially for girls; however, the need for qualified teachers is great.
Finally, Burushaski (the language of the Burusho) is still an unwritten language. Qualified workers are needed to develop a written language for the Burusho so that the Bible can be translated into their language.
The name, "Islamic Republic of Pakistan," shows clearly that their national foundation is built on the Islamic religion. On the whole, Pakistan is closed to Christianity and is opposed to the presence of missionaries there. The Aga Khan has even instructed the people not to listen to foreigners.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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