The Waigeli of Afghanistan
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, Afghanistan was mainly an affiliation of tribes, held together by intrigue and force of the rulers. Throughout the years, rival chiefs and foreign governments sought to control the major areas. Today, Afghanistan is an independent nation in the midst of a long-standing civil war. It is home to more than 70 different ethnic groups, and the 11,800 Waigeli represent less than 1% of the total population.
Very little is known about the Waigeli except that they are a sub-group of the Nuristani, who live primarily in a region known as Nuristan. This area is located in northeastern Afghanistan at the southern end of the Hindu Kush Mountains. Nuristan has a temperate climate with enough precipitation to adequately irrigate the crops.
The Waigeli derive their name from the Waigel Valley in which they live. They call their language Waigeli, or Kalasha-ala. It belongs to the Indo-Iranian language family.
What are their lives like?
The economy of Afghanistan is based primarily on farming and raising livestock. While there is little fertile land in the mountains, there are good grazing grounds. As a result, the Waigeli practice a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, moving their herds according to the seasons.
Most Nuristani groups have two classes: the lower class artisans and the upper class landowners. The main crafts of the artisans are woodworking, weaving, blacksmithing, pottery, and basketry. Their products are used by all the village people. Bazaars are important trade centers for both agricultural products and craft items. Traditional handicrafts are widespread, highly developed, and often very refined.
The basic unit of the Waigeli community is the village, which is surrounded by farm land and grazing land. The land is owned by the male head of the family, and grazing rights are inherited by his sons. Cooperation is based on kinship ties and relatives are expected to support one another in times of crisis or need.
In addition to class distinctions, the Waigeli practice a division of labor according to sex. Traditionally, both males and females were expected to contribute in the making of a meal. The women provided the bread, which symbolized their responsibilities of farming, and gathering firewood. The men supplied a dairy product, representing their responsibility of herding the animals.
What are their beliefs?
All the Nuristani groups once shared a common religion. They believed that the world was divided into pure and impure, corresponding to the division between gods and people. The gods were said to determine the destiny of people, which was based on the generosity of sacrifices to the gods and the purity of individuals and their families. Shamans (witch doctors) acted as intermediaries for the people. Purification rites and sacrifices were performed by others.
Islam was introduced to the people of Afghanistan during the seventh century with the Arab invasions. By the ninth century, the Nuristani had converted to Islam. Today, the Waigeli are 90% Sunni Muslim, with the remainder still practicing ethnic religions.
What are their needs?
Ethnic relations between the major people groups in Afghanistan have been marked by conflict. Historically, the stronger groups have attempted to dominate the weaker ones. When the Soviets invaded their country, the Nuristani strongly resisted. The invasion and current civil war have all but destroyed the nation of Afghanistan. Little of the social structure remains, and many people have fled their homeland and found relative safety in other areas. While there are a number of missions agencies still working in the country, it remains very dangerous, with frequent evacuations of personnel.
Before any substantial efforts can be made to reach the Waigeli, the civil war must end. Sustained, fervent prayer is needed to see this happen. Then there will be many opportunities to minister to the people and rebuild the nation.
- Ask the Lord to bring a lasting peace to the nation of Afghanistan.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to protect the missions agency and missionaries that are working with the Waigeli in Afghanistan.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Waigeli.
- Ask the Lord to raise up linguists to translate the Bible into the Waigeli language.
- Pray that God will supernaturally reveal Himself to the Waigeli through dreams and visions.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Waigeli bound for many generations.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will fervently intercede for the Waigeli.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Waigeli by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Waigeli
- Country: Afghanistan
- Their language: Waigeli
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 0%
- Church members: 0
- 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: 100 (<1%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 12,000 (99%)
- Country: Afghanistan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 9
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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