The Juba Somali of Ethiopia
There are about 275,300 Juba Somali living in Ethiopia. Reflecting their long-time association with Islam, they are almost 100% Muslim. Descendants of the original Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, the Juba Somali speak an Arabic dialect (Juba Somali) from which their name is derived. They are one of the smallest groups of Arabs, making up less than 1% of Ethiopia's total population.
The Juba Somali of Ethiopia live along the southeastern border touching Somalia, inhabiting the fertile regions around the Wabi Shebele tributary. Although most of them live in villages and small settlements, they have maintained their tribal affiliations.
Typical of eastern Africa, two types of villages occur in Ethiopia. The first type consists of large, clustered villages. The second and more popular type is composed of villages strung out along waterways in a continuous chain of closely adjoining huts or houses.
What are their lives like?
The part of Africa in which the Juba Somali live is known for its agriculture. As is typical of Arabs in the region, they grow wheat, vegetables, and coffee. In addition, they cultivate melons, dates, mangoes, and pomegranates. Domestic animals are kept in small yards to supply the villagers daily with milk and eggs.
Life is centered around the village for most Juba Somali. Their villages are somewhat more structured than that of other area Arabs. One style of village home is made of mud brick with a flat roof and one interior room. Occasionally, homes will have thatched roofs that extend out to make porches. Most families have one or more of these houses, all of which are enclosed by walls of mud or thorns. The other style house that Juba Somali may live in is called a Sudanese-style house. This type of house is a round, one-room hut with a thatch, coned roof. In some areas the bases are made of mud, and in others, they are made of thatch. The Sudanese-style house is particularly popular along the Nile River.
The Juba Somali practice endogamous marriages (marriage within a small social circle). They are also generally monogamous (one husband, one wife). In the past, marriages were arranged, but it is now becoming more acceptable for an individual to choose his own mate.
Children are seen as the family's greatest asset. They receive inheritances patrilineally (inheritances are passed from fathers to sons). In this system, boys inherit more than girls. The value of young girls is seen in their ability to have children and bond families through marriage.
Social life is extremely important to the Juba Somali. Like most East African Arab groups, they share a tradition of a daily coffee time. Because wood is expensive and somewhat scarce, animal dung is used as fuel.
Despite the teachings of Islam, the Juba Somali maintain the Arab tradition of different classes in society. Manner of dress has become one of the distinguishing factors of class. Women wear veils both while they are in town and at home. When boys enter into manhood, they are allowed to wear a different type of headgear.
What are their beliefs?
Being Muslims, the Juba Somali follow the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. They believe that the only way to God is through following the teachings of their holy book, the Koran. Their Muslim religion is a religion of works based on these five "pillars" of faith: (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 give alms generously. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
What are their needs?
The Juba Somali in Ethiopia are virtually all Muslim, and at present, there are very few believers within their communities. Christian broadcasts and the Bible are available in their language, but there are no missions agencies currently working among them. Evangelization will be challenging due to the nature of the Arabs' lifestyle and religious belief system.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send committed workers to the Juba Somali of Ethiopia.
- Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
- Pray that the Juba Somali will hunger to know Jesus and that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Juba Somali so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will strengthen and protect the few known Juba Somali believers.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Juba Somali bound for so many generations.
- Ask God to raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors who will intercede for the Juba Somali.
- Pray that strong local churches will be established among the Juba Somali of Ethiopia by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Juba Somali
- Country: Ethiopia
- Their language: Juba Somali
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 28
- 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: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 85,400 (31%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 189,900 (69%)
- Country: Ethiopia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 29
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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