The Somali of Kenya
The Somali live scattered across eight countries in the northeastern portion of Africa, commonly called the "Horn of Africa," and in the Middle East. They are one of the most homogenous people groups on the continent of Africa. They share a common language, faith, and cultural heritage that is an integral part of their nomadic lifestyle.
The Somali first appeared in Africa around 1200 A.D., and began expanding westward and southward about 150 years later. They converted to Islam around 1550, under the influence of Arab traders that had settled along the cost of present-day Somalia. Their southward trend eventually led them into the area that is now Kenya. Today, nearly half a million Somali live in the Northeast Province of Kenya.
The name, Somali, is derived from the words, "so maal," which literally mean, "Go milk a beast for yourself!" To the Somali, this is actually a rough expression of hospitality.
What are their lives like?
Somali society is based on the nuclear family, which consists of a husband, wife, and children. The man is the head of his household. A typical family owns a herd of sheep or goats and a few burden camels. Some may also own a herd of breeding and milking camels. The more camels a man has, the greater his prestige.
Each extended family moves across the desert as a single unit. They follow the direction of a council that is made up of the male heads of the households. A chief is elected to act as head of the council. The Somali clan units are highly articulate and politically conscious. They are built on family loyalty and formal contracts. Those who control water and grazing maintain their status through force, if necessary.
The Somali nomads live in portable huts made of wooden branches covered with grass mats. They are easily collapsible so that they can be loaded on pack animals and moved along with the herds. Each clan lives with their huts close together, and their cluster of homes is enclosed by a thorn-shrub hedge. Their staple diet includes milk, meat, and wild fruits.
The more settled Somali farmers live in permanent, round huts that are six to nine feet high. They have a more varied diet, which includes maize, beans, rice, eggs, poultry, bananas, dates, mangoes, and tea.
Having an abundant supply of food is a status symbol among the clans. Each family periodically holds banquets for their relatives and friends. A family's prestige is determined by the frequency of its feasts, the number of people invited, and the quality and quantity of food served.
Limited polygamy—up to four wives—is permitted among the Somali. The first wife exerts authority over the others. The youngest wife is usually the most favored. Each of the wives is responsible for some part of the husband's herds; but he remains the legal owner.
What are their beliefs?
Although the Somali are 99% Shafiite Muslims, numerous pagan beliefs and traditions have been intermingled with their Islamic practices. They achieve "ecstasy" by chanting or taking narcotics. The standard Islamic prayers are usually observed; however, Somali women have never worn the required veils. Villagers and urban settlers frequently turn to the wadaad, a religious expert, for blessings, charms, and advice in worldly matters.
They believe in a supreme male "sky god." They perform rainmaking rituals, abstain from eating pork or fish, and make animal sacrifices. They also have a ritual bonfire at the solar new year. They believe in spirit possession, and in spirits that live in trees, water sources, and on hilltops.
What are their needs?
Although the Somali did not have a written script until 1972, they already have a translation of the Bible in their language. Unfortunately, the activities of missionaries among the Somali have met with little success. Nine missions agencies are currently targeting this people group, but there are still less than 100 known believers among them.
- Ask the Lord to raise up missionaries who can effectively reach out to Muslims.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to grant favor and wisdom to the missions agencies that are targeting the Somali.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among them.
- Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio and television to the Somali.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Somali by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Somali
- Country: Kenya
- Their language: Somali
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 94
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 9
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 165,300 (35%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 306,800 (65%)
- Country: Kenya
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 116
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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