The Jahanka of Senegal
The 24,200 Jahanka, also called the Diakhanke, are the descendants of the Soninke. They live in what are called "Jahanke villages," located mainly in Gambia and Senegal, but also across the border in Guinea. Although their specific location in Senegal is not known, they are assumed to live in the southern part of the country, near the border of Guinea. Dwelling among the much larger Mandinka population, most of the Jahanka speak Mandinka as a second language. Their native language, Azer, is part of the Niger-Congo language family and is usually spoken at home.
Senegal is composed of many diverse ethnic groups. The largest of these include the Wolof (44% of the population), the Fulani and Tukulor (24%), the Serer (15%), the Diola (5%), and the Malinke (4%). About 78% of the population is engaged in agriculture, but only 27% of the land area is suitable for farming. Senegal is among the world's largest producers of peanuts, which are grown in many areas, especially the northwest.
What are their lives like?
The chief economic activity of Senegal is agriculture, with peanuts and peanut oil providing a significant share of yearly export earnings. However, this has declined in recent years, from 29% of the earnings in the early 1980's to 12% in the early 1990's. Attempts are being made to diversify agriculture and to achieve self-sufficiency by expanding rice and tomato cultivation.
Most ethnic groups in Senegal grow a variety of crops, using very basic tools. Maize, manioc, and rice are the staple foods, but squash, melons, sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes are also grown. Major tree crops include bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and papayas. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised, but their milk is not used. Dogs and chickens are seen in almost every village. Hunting is of less importance than farming, and there is gathering of wild fruits and roots; berries; and kola, shea, and palm nuts.
Although the Jahanka are small in number, they are a very significant group in Senegal. They are 100% Muslim and in the past, were very highly regarded Muslim scholars. Formerly, they supported themselves through their activities as religious teachers; however, when they lost their slaves in this century, they were forced to devote more time to farming and less time to religious studies. Nevertheless, many are still active Muslim teachers. The Jahanka claim to be descendants of a great fifteenth century West African cleric. Their Muslim tradition avoids the notion of jihad (holy war) in favor of pacifism, and they feel no need to convert others to Islam.
The Jahanka value education and scholarship and are known for their success in commerce and other professions. However, as urbanization has accelerated in recent years, the Jahanka have become more dispersed, and the pressures of modernization have become more acute.
What are their beliefs?
About 91% of the population of Senegal is Muslim; most of the remainder follow traditional ethnic beliefs. Christians form a very small portion of the total population.
The Jahanka are 100% Malikite Muslims. The Sufi orders, the Mouride, Tidjane, and Qadri, are influential in political and economic life. As Muslims, the Jahanka follow the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. Their Muslim religion is a religion of works based on five "pillars," or duties. These include affirming that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet," saying daily prayers, giving alms, fasting during certain times, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca during their lifetime.
What are their needs?
There are no known Christians among the Jahanka and no Christian resources in their language. Conversions among them would greatly impact the general Muslim community in Senegal. In particular, the religious teachers of their communities need to be targeted. Perhaps Christian educators and professionals who could present the Gospel in culturally relevant ways would be one avenue to reach the Jahanka.
- Ask the Lord to send missionaries to share the Good News with the Jahanka of Senegal.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Jahanka.
- Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Azer language.
- Pray that God will call Christian educators and professionals to minister the love of Jesus to the Jahanka.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Jahanka who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Jahanka bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
- Pray that strong local churches will be established among the Jahanka by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Jahanka
- Country: Senegal
- Their language: Azer (Jahanke)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: None
- Church members: None
- 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: 1,200 (5%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 23,000 (95%)
- Country: Senegal
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 17
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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