The Shuwa Arab of Chad
The Shuwa Arab, or Baggara, of Chad live in the dry central Chadic Sahel zone of the landlocked country of Chad. Libya surrounds the country to the north; while Sudan is to the east; Niger is to the west; and Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic are to the south and southwest. Because of its central location, Lake Chad is the region's most important body of water.
Baggara ancestors immigrated from Sudan to Chad during the fourteenth century. They were primarily nomadic camel herders and slave traders. By the eighteenth century, the Baggara counted their wealth in their large herds of horses, cattle, goats, and sheep. Although the Baggara are respected by the Chad government because of their wealth in animals, they have never played a large role in Chad's political arena. Their pastoral lifestyle has also saved them from being forced by the government to change culturally—an action that has disrupted the lives of the more settled peoples.
What are their lives like?
Baggara towns are composed of small compounds grouped according to male family and tribal lines. The shaykh, or male elder, usually has his house in the center of the camp or settlement. His house is closely surrounded by the houses of his family and relatives.
The Baggara generally have two homes—one in the village and one in a nomadic camp. During the dry season they live among more sedentary groups and share their agricultural lands. When the rains come the Baggara spread out among other Arab groups that live in the region. Marriage is used to strengthen kinship ties and is more a family than an individual concern. Baggara men frequently have more than one wife. One wife usually lives in the nomadic camp, while the other lives in the village.
The roles of Baggara men and women are strictly separated. Women are responsible for almost all tasks concerning home and family, including the construction of adobe houses, woven straw tents, the cooking areas, or any other structures associated with the house. They are the children's primary caretakers. Women also milk the cows that provide the family with dairy products. They earn extra income (which they keep) by selling the milk, butter, cheese and other products.
Men manage the cattle and the crops of millet, yams, plantains, and cassava melons. They also build "sun shelters," which they use for eating and entertaining while they are tending the herds. Young boys herd calves and small livestock. All children attend school, although girls usually withdraw after about six years.
What are their beliefs?
The Baggara of Chad are Sunni Muslims, but they are not particularly interested in Muslim fundamentalist ideals. They observe the five pillars of faith (declare the faith of Islam, say daily prayers, give alms, fast, and make the pilgrimage to Mecca).
Almost any occasion—the arrival of a visitor, unexpected good fortune, or someone returning from a trip—is an excuse for a communal feast. Betrothal, marriage, and moving the newlyweds to their new residence calls for a major celebration because it is considered a "life-stage transition." This celebration also offers young people an opportunity for courting. Even the death of a family member is followed by feasting after a mourning period.
Three religions co-exist in Chad: classical African religions, Islam, and Christianity. However, many pre-Christian beliefs have been retained in their Christian practices.
What are their needs?
Muslims make up almost half of Chad's population, including virtually all of the Baggara. The New Testament, the Jesus film, and Christian broadcasts are all available in the Baggara's Badawi language (an Arabic dialect that is not classical Arabic). Although several missions agencies currently work among the Baggara, many missionaries have left because of the numerous conflicts and political upheavals the country has suffered over the past twenty-five years.
- Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Baggara.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete the translation of the Bible into Badawi.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Baggara.
- Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to the Baggara.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Baggara towards the Gospel.
- Take authority over the principalities and powers that are keeping the Baggara bound in spiritual darkness.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Baggara church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Shuwa Arab
- Country: Chad
- Their language: Arabiya Shuwa
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 137
- Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 3
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 507,900 (37%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 864,400 (63%)
- Country: Chad
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 15
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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