The Gilaki of Iran
The Gilaki live in northern Iran along the Caspian Sea. They are primarily located in the Gilan province. Although the Gilaki number more than 2.2 million, their ancient cultural language (also called Gilaki or Gilani) remains unwritten. Today, the educated Gilaki speak Farsi, the national language of Iran. In 1977, a university was built in Rasht, the largest city of the Gilan province.
The Gilan province is a plain that lies between the Elburz Mountains and the Caspian Sea. The moisture brought in by the winds of the Caspian Sea becomes trapped by the mountains, creating a damp, warm climate. This fosters the growth of rich forests in the region. Over the years, the Elburz Mountains have kept the inhabitants of the Gilan province relatively protected from invaders. Those groups who have succeeded in invading the province have only ruled from afar. Ultimately, the Gilan province was returned to Iran in a peace treaty in 1921.
What are their lives like?
The basis of the Gilaki economy is agriculture. Farmers usually grow rice, tea, and tobacco. Silkworms are also raised in this province. In the 1970's, major agricultural movements were encouraged by the influx of large investments, which were made as a result of the oil boom. Agricultural businesses were introduced, including large rice industries.
The city of Rasht is located in the center of this agriculturally dominated area. It has become a commercial, distribution, and manufacturing hub for the region, producing silk, soap, and glass. Quality roads link Rasht to the rest of Iran, making distribution of these and other products possible.
The architecture of the Gilan province is unique, primarily because it is a forested area and wooden building materials are in abundance. Specific to this region, verandahs are commonly built on the sides of the wooden houses.
The inhabitants of the Gilan province usually identify their own interests with those of Iran. However, they have often been the source of resistance and reform movements. For example, after World War I, the Gilaki demanded national reform and independence for their own region.
What are their beliefs?
History records that the Apostle Bartholomew spent time evangelizing in this area of the world around 50 A.D. Although Christianity was once a strong presence here, now it is extremely weak. Today, the Gilaki are virtually 100% Muslim. They belong to a branch of Islam known as the Ithna-Asharis.
Islam is a major world religion that is based on the teachings of Mohammed, the prophet. The Koran, or holy book of Islam, was said to have been given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. As Muslims, the Gilaki consider Jesus to be a prophet, a teacher, and a good man, but not God's son. They also believe that all men will give account for their actions after they die. They believe that they will be judged by their good works and by their knowledge of the Koran.
The Gilaki Muslims adhere to the five basic teachings or "pillars" of Islam. These include affirming that Allah is the only god and Mohammed is his prophet, praying five times a day, giving alms generously, fasting, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
What are their needs?
The cultural language of Gilaki is unwritten. Although an effort was made in the 1940's to establish a Gilaki script, the project was abandoned. There is a need for this ancient language to be preserved. Perhaps Christian linguists will find open doors into the university in Rasht by assuming work on this project.
Currently, only one missions agency is targeting the 2.2 million Gilaki of Iran. Unfortunately, neither the Jesus film nor Christian broadcasts are available in the Gilaki language. Also, due to the fact that there is no Gilaki script, the Scriptures are not yet available. Prayer is the key to seeing the Gilaki reached with the Good News.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to the Gilan province and share Christ with the Gilaki.
- Ask God to give the few Gilaki believers boldness to share Christ with their friends and families.
- Pray that God will raise up linguists to devise a Gilaki script so that the Bible may be made available to these precious people in their own language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Gilaki towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of Iran's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up intercessors who will begin faithfully standing in the gap for the Gilaki.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Gilaki bound.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Gilaki by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Gilaki
- Country: Iran
- Their language: Gilaki
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 0.5%
- Church members: 11,057
- 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: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 497,600 (22%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 1,713,800 (77%)
- Country: Iran
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 26
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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