The Digo of Tanzania
The Digo are a Bantu tribe and are grouped together with eight other tribes who share a common oral history. Together, these tribes make up the Mijikenda, or "nine towns." Tradition tells us that the Mijikenda tribes originated farther north, but were driven south as a result of war. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Digo experienced a great famine. It became common for them to give either themselves or their children as "blood money" to serve as temporary collateral for a loan of food. Sadly, there were many times when the debt could not be redeemed, thus leaving them to live as slaves. Freedom was then granted when a slave converted to Islam.
What are their lives like?
The Digo have a talent for creating songs and stories about their lifestyle, but unfortunately the tradition of story telling is fading away, and more modern forms of recreation, such as soccer, are being adopted.
Contrary to the Digo of Kenya, the Tanzanian Digo may not be solely matrilineal; they trace their heritage through both the male and the female lines. Today, young Digo are abandoning many of the ways of their tribal elders as they become increasingly influenced by the outside world.
When a Digo couple decides to marry, a substantial bride-price must be paid by the groom. The head of the household and members of the groom's family help to provide the cattle, goats, sheep, or money necessary for payment to the bride's family.
What are their beliefs?
Only a few Digo have studied Islam in any depth, and most of them have only a superficial knowledge of its doctrines. Nevertheless, its presence has not gone entirely unnoticed, and its influence has altered both their religious and political structures. The people have adopted new attire and diets from their Muslim Arab neighbors. However, to most Digo, the wearing of a white skull cap and the adoption of an Arab name constitute the major requirements of being Muslim. This nominal identification with Islam is referred to as "folk Islam."
What are their needs?
Most Digo experience some degree of persecution when they become Christians, and many are disinherited by their families. However, there have been reports that tolerance has increased and persecution has lessened in recent years.
The Book of Genesis, the Gospel of John, and a few tracts are the only Christian materials that have been written in the Digo language. Nevertheless, the Digo are very excited about having something in their own language. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of the population is illiterate, so reading programs are a primary need.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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