The Zuara Berber of Libya
The Zuara Berber are one of many groups of Berbers. The Berbers are a North African people group who were conquered by Muslim invaders in the seventh century. The name Berber, which is derived from the Latin word "barbarian," was given to them by the Romans in the third century A.D. Today, the term 'Berber' refers to any native speaker of one of the Berber languages.
There are three main groups of Berbers in Libya: the Luata, the Nefusa, and the Adassa. Each group contains several smaller tribes. The Zuara is one of the smallest tribes, numbering only about 32,000. They live in the far northwest part of Libya, on the Mediterranean Sea. They are primarily located just west of the city of Tripoli, in an area known as Jebal Nefusa. Today, most Berbers refer to themselves as the Imazighen, which means "men of noble origin." The Zuara, like other Berbers, are generally bilingual, speaking both Zuara and Arabic.
What are their lives like?
Due to their location along the Mediterranean Sea, the Zuara are farmers. They produce and consume large amounts of barley, corn, wheat, and rye. Chickens, goats, and sheep are also raised. This supplemental food source provides milk, eggs, butter, and meat.
Because of its proximity to Tripoli, the region west of the city is becoming increasingly more urbanized. However, many of the Zuara still live in homes made of mud brick and stone. Mountain village homes are quite similar. They are usually flat-roofed houses made of stone that has been reinforced with dried mud.
The Berber dress is very similar to that of the Arabian community. The men wear the traditional djellaba cloak, which is made of cotton with wide sleeves and a hood. They also wear cotton turbans or caps. The men work in the fields, herd the animals, and hunt; while the women do the housework and care for the children. The women only help the men in the fields during harvest time, when they take the newly cut grain to the threshing floor.
For the Berber, life revolves around important ceremonies such as births, marriages, and deaths. Many rites of passage are important parts of their culture as well, such as the first haircut and circumcision for boys. The most elaborate of all is the marriage ceremony.
The Zuara, like other Berbers, live in a society that is male-dominated. The line of descent is traced through the fathers and all inheritances are passed down through the males. Also, as a means of preserving themselves as a people, the Zuara are not permitted to marry outside of their own group.
What are their beliefs?
The Zuara, like other Berbers, are virtually all Muslims. The Islamic religion is based on the teachings of Mohammed. The Koran ("holy book" of Islam) was supposedly given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. Islam is a religion of works that is based on five "pillars": (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must generously give alms. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
There are many different branches of Islam and the Zuara belong to the Kharijite sect. The Kharijites are unique in that they believe that Muslims have the right to eliminate unjust rulers. They also allow for non-Arabs to hold Islamic leadership positions. Most Muslims do not accept these beliefs.
What are their needs?
A profession of faith in Jesus Christ can cost a Muslim his life. This explains why there are currently only three known Zuara believers in Libya. At the present time, Zuara is only a spoken language. A written script must be developed so that the Bible can be translated for the Zuara tribe.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Libya and share Christ with the Zuara Berber.
- Pray that the doors of Libya will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask God to provide evangelistic tools and equipment needed to reach them both spiritually and geographically.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Zuara language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Zuara toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Zuara bound.
- Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Zuara Berber by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Zuara Berber
- Country: Libya
- Their language: Zuara
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 3
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: None
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 2,900 (9%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 29,500 (91%)
- Country: Libya
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 16
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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