The Makua of Madagascar
Madagascar, the largest island in the Indian Ocean, is located off the southeastern coast of Africa. Its more than 14 million people are composed of many diverse ethnic groups. Uninhabited until 2,500 years ago, it was first populated by Malays and Indonesians. In the last thousand years, groups of African and Arab ancestry have claimed the island as home. In the 1500's, Europeans were the last to appear. Despite its proximity to Africa, the main inhabitants of the island (the Malagasy) do not consider themselves African, but related to Indonesians.
The 158,600 Makua are an African tribal people who were originally from northern Mozambique. Why they are in Madagascar is not clear, but it appears that at one time a neighboring tribe, the Makonde, captured and sold many of them to Arab traders as slaves. In turn, the Arabs took the captives to Madagascar, where eventually they became free residents. The Makua speak a language that is part of the Niger-Congo language family.
What are their lives like?
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an average annual income of $220 per person. Since colonial days, the economy has remained predominantly agricultural, with 75% of all workers involved in agricultural activities. Because of the mountainous terrain, only 5% of the island can be cultivated. The chief crop grown is rice, which occupies half of the farm land. Other food crops include cassava, sweet potatoes, maize, beans, and bananas. Coffee, sugarcane, vanilla, and cloves are important cash crops. Madagascar's location has placed it in the path of many cyclones in recent years, and the economy has been further damaged.
The Makua are one of the largest indigenous groups in Mozambique, but very little is known about them. Consequently, some assumptions have been made in this profile about their lifestyle. Further research is needed to clearly identify these people so they can be reached with the Gospel. The Makua are assumed to be farmers who participate in the typical economic life of the island. As an ethnic group, they are organized into small sub-groups, but they have no central authority. Keeping with the tradition brought from the African mainland, the Makua engage in scarring of their bodies and faces in elaborate patterns.
What are their beliefs?
Although 15% of the Makua have converted to Islam due to Arab influence, most still practice their traditional, pagan religion. In most African ethnic religions, there is a belief in a supreme being, although regular worship is not offered to him. In many regions, there is the belief that at one time, this supreme being lived near the earth, but due to human familiarity, he withdrew himself from close involvement. He is still reverenced, however, as the one who sends rewards or punishments.
The Makua also believe in other spiritual beings that take the form of nature spirits or the spirits of dead ancestors. Powerful cults of the dead are the dominant feature of religious life, providing a basis for social life in East Africa. The dead are regarded as the heads of their families. Once they have left their human bodies, they are thought to possess additional powers. These "spirits" receive much more formal worship and attention than the creator god. Every effort is made to assure a quiet, final rest for the dead. Otherwise, they will return as wandering ghosts. Time and resources are spent to make sure that the ancestors remain content and that the spirits are pacified. Certain rituals are conducted in conjunction with prayers and sacrifices to ensure the good growth of crops or to ensure good health.
What are their needs?
With so little known about the Makua, they have easily remained a "hidden" people. One missions agency, however, is presently working with them, and portions of the Scriptures are available in their language. The Makua need to be set free from the fear that comes from their pagan beliefs. Only through the cross of Jesus can they experience such freedom. Intercession is the key to seeing this become a reality in their lives.
- Ask the Lord to call full-time Christian workers to join the few who are already working among the Makua of Madagascar.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant creative ideas of evangelism to the missions agency that is targeting the Makua.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Makua, with many conversions resulting.
- Pray that Jesus will reveal Himself as Lord through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will use the Makua believers to share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Makua bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Makua church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Makua
- Country: Madagascar
- Their language: Makua
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 4.4%
- Church members: 6,978
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 60,900 (38%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 97,700 (62%)
- Country: Madagascar
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 24
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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