The Sonha of Nepal
Nepal is a small, mountainous kingdom at the base of the Himalayan Mountains. Sandwiched between India to the south and Tibet to the north, Nepal is home to about 110 different ethnic groups, which speak many different languages and have various religious beliefs.
Tourism has grown in importance in Nepal since the 1960's. Katmandu, the capital, is linked by road and air to India and attracts visitors to its many picturesque temples. Also, a growing number of hikers and mountain climbers use Katmandu as a base for expeditions to Mount Everest, as well as for hiking tours in the Middle and High Himalayas. However, Nepal faces major transportation obstacles because of its rugged terrain.
The 13,000 Sonha are located in the mountains of western Nepal along the Karnali, Bheri, and Mahakali Rivers. They are closely related to the Dang Tharu and speak Sonha, an Indo-Aryan language.
What Are Their Lives Like
Nepal is predominantly an agricultural country, with more than 90% of the population dependent on farming for their livelihood. The mountain farms of western Nepal are extremely small in size and often very fragmented. The chief crops grown there are maize, millet, barley, potatoes, and radishes. Farms with fruit trees are scattered throughout the districts. Occasionally, horses are raised, and at high altitudes, a number of people keep yak. Gold, copper, lead, and iron mines are also found in the western districts. Many of the Sonha pan for gold in the mountain streams near the mines.
Many Hindu institutions, including the rigid caste (social class) system, have wide-ranging effects on much of Nepali society. As a result, Nepali culture among the tribal groups is primarily Hindu-oriented. The word "caste" basically means breed, race, or kind. Sonha society is segmented into hierarchical castes, which are usually endogamous (marriage only within the caste). Not enough is known about the Sonha to accurately place them in the caste system; thus, their particular lifestyle cannot be adequately described. They are believed, however, to be related to the Tharu tribes and, thus, may be of Mongoloid descent. Further research is needed to clearly identify the Sonha and their needs.
What Are Their Belief?
The majority of Sonha are animistic in their beliefs (believing that living things and inanimate objects have a soul or spirit), but there are approximately 20% who follow some form of Hinduism. Often referred to as "ethnic" religion, animism embraces the belief that the souls of the dead linger after death and that spirits inhabit the objects and aspects of nature. In most animistic cultures, the people live in fear of offending the spirits of nature or the departed spirits of their ancestors. Death is one of the events of great significance, and the rituals for dealing with it differ from place to place. Usually, someone designated as the shaman, or local priest, conducts regular rituals in order to appease the local deities or to inquire of the spirits concerning problems within the village.
A significant number of Sonha follow the basic Hindu customs and traditions. The majority of Hindus, but not all, believe in a supreme being. Some respect all life and eat only vegetables, while others will gladly eat meat from sacrifices in the temple. Contrary to popular belief in the West, Hinduism is not an ancient, fixed set of beliefs that are easily described. It is instead a body of customs, practices, and beliefs which go through major changes every few hundred years. A belief in reincarnation (continuous cycle of death and rebirth) is one of the few unifying features of Hinduism.
What Are Their Needs?
Most of the Sonha have a concept of a creator or supreme God, but most have not heard of Jesus. About 90% of them have no Gospel witness readily available to them, and there are only a handful of known believers. There are no Scriptures available in their language, and at present, no missions agency is working with them. Bible translators and pioneer missionaries are urgently needed to win the Sonha to Christ.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to call committed missionaries who will invest their lives in the Sonha of Nepal.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Nepal's leaders to the preaching of the Gospel.
- Pray that the Bible and the Jesus film will be made available to the Sonha in their own language.
- Ask the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself to the Sonha through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the few known Sonha believers.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Sonha bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Sonha by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Sonha
- Country: Nepal
- Their language: Sonha
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <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: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,200 (9.5%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 11,800 (90.5%)
- Country: Nepal
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 27
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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