The Western Baluch of Afghanistan
Afghanistan's 252,000 Baluch are part of the larger Baluch community which numbers about 8 million people. Their homeland straddles the boarders of Iran and Pakistan, and includes a small portion of southern Afghanistan. According to historians, this high and arid region was once a heavily populated country filled with a large number of flowing rivers. Today, it is a barren wasteland of rocky mountains and dry river valleys mixed with desert land. It does not rain very often and the rainfall is extremely unreliable. These conditions have also resulted in a tree shortage in the hills. However, when the rains come or the snow melts, the dry river beds become raging floods and the brown barren land turns green.
The various Baluch groups are distinguishable by their languages. These languages have been divided into three branches: Eastern, Western, and Southern Baluchi. Baluchi belongs to the Indo-Iranic language family, and is related to Kurdish.
What are their lives like?
The Baluch are basically self sufficient, relying on their own skills to build homes and develop the tools necessary for daily life. The entire household is responsible for tending the family's herd. Rugs are also woven for household use and for trade. Women work in groups, threshing and separating the harvest; while men do the plowing and planting. Land is not privately owned but belongs to the whole tribe.
Baluch kinship is patriarchal, or male-dominated. Societies are organized into clans and tribes. The tribes are grouped together into large units, or chieftaincies, that are ruled by chiefs. At every level of this hierarchy, a male elder is the head. Clan membership is based on family ties; whereas, tribal membership is based on territory alone. All of the tribes share a common system of social and political behavior. This guarantees the safety of individual travelers. It also allows him to fit into any community he may visit and gather important information about the conditions in other areas.
Baluch marriages are arranged between the bride's father and the prospective groom. A "bride price" of livestock and cash is paid. Once a woman is married, she passes from the authority of her father to that of her husband. Marriages are monogamous and lifelong, and marrying a non-Baluch is strictly forbidden.
Baluchmayar is the honor code by which the Baluch live. These principles include extending hospitality and mercy, dealing with each other honestly, and offering refuge to strangers. They are preserved through both songs and poetry. Children learn proper behavior by watching their elders, and are taunted whenever they misbehave.
Although Muslim, the Baluch do not look to Sharia (Islamic law) to deal with social violations. Rather, secular authority belongs to the tribal leaders. The traditional method of justice involved "blood feuds" that were initiated by the group who had suffered a wrongful death. Capital punishment was also used in cases of adultery or the theft of clan property.
Many Baluch cannot read or write; and until recently, their language was unwritten. However, they have a long tradition of poetic compositions. Poets and professional minstrels are highly regarded.
What are their beliefs?
The Baluch are Sunni Muslims. Their religious practices remain private, and there is no concept of a "state religion." All forms of secular authority are separated from the spiritual authority held by religious leaders.
What are their needs?
Changing economic and political conditions have made the individual Baluch increasingly more independent, thus weakening the position of the chiefs. In many areas, people no longer know where they stand socially or politically.
Very little missions work is taking place among the Western Baluch. The Jesus Film and portions of the Bible are available; however, there are only 25 known believers. Since the illiteracy rate is so high, Christian workers might find open doors into Afghanistan as teachers.
- Ask the Lord to call those who are willing to go to Afghanistan and share Christ with the Baluch.
- Pray that God will give missions agencies favor and strategies for reaching these Muslims.
- Ask God to open doors for Christian businessmen, teachers, and other tentmakers to share the Gospel with them.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into the various Baluch languages.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Western Baluch towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of Afghanistan's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Western Baluch by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Western Baluch
- Country: Afghanistan
- Their language: Baluchi
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 25
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 45,500 (18%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 207,000 (82%)
- Country: Afghanistan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 9
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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