Introduction / History
Ethiopia is home to well over 100 distinct ethnic groups. Racial and linguistic mixing has long been a part of the culture, resulting in a rich, varied ethnic composition. The Zayse are one of the smaller tribes, representing a slight percentage of the population. The Zayse live in southern Ethiopia, in the area west of Lake Chamo.
The majority of the inhabitants of Ethiopia support themselves through subsistence agriculture, barely growing enough to survive. As a result, the bulk of the population lives in the central plateau region, where agricultural resources are most developed.
Ethiopia was one of the first Christian nations, having been introduced to Christianity in the fourth century. Today, over half of the population is Christian. Nevertheless, the peoples living in the southern and western parts of the country (including the Zayse) have remained relatively untouched by the Gospel.
What are their lives like?
Little is known about the Zayse in particular; however, it is assumed that their lifestyle is similar to that of other groups in the area. The Zayse base their economy on a balance between agriculture and herding. Although they seem somewhat indifferent to farming, crops and livestock are probably of equal importance. During the dry season, the Zayse also engage in some fishing to supplement their diets.
The typical Zayse dwelling, called a tukal, is a circular hut made of acacia branches covered with grass mats. The cone-shaped roof has an opening to allow smoke to escape. Their staple diet includes durra (a cereal grain), maize, beans, rice, milk, meat, and wild fruits. Coffee and tea are both popular beverages.
The Zayse family is headed by an authoritarian father who has the right to total obedience. Men usually have only one wife, and children are considered a necessity. The more children a Zayse man has, the greater his prestige.
Attaining warrior status is an important aspect of Zayse culture. Boys are taught to use spears and begin training to become warriors at an early age. Traditionally, men ready to marry were expected to present to their brides part of a man whom they had killed. This act was part of becoming a full-fledged adult, as well as part of certain festivals. Although the tradition survives, wild animals are now used instead of humans.
A basic value of the Zayse is tokuma, which is identification with the group. Cooperation is central to this system, especially in work arrangements. The Zayse have a reputation for being easygoing and sociable. They value hospitality and almsgiving, but more to relatives and friends than to strangers.
What are their beliefs?
The vast majority of the Zayse are animistic; that is, they believe that living things and inanimate objects have a soul or spirit. In southern Ethiopia, the traditional beliefs, rituals, and dances vary slightly with each tribe. However, all groups worship a supreme, masculine sky god, whom they view as being remote and inaccessible. They also believe in the existence of zar, or spirits that live near water and in other places. It is also believed the zar may possess people.
Rituals for naming Zayse children are usually not held until months or even years after birth. The most important ceremony in the life of a Zayse man occurs after his first daughter reaches adolescence. This marks his passage to the prestigious status of ma gudoha, or "big man."
What are their needs?
The barren area in which the Zayse live suffers from a serious water shortage. Although other groups have received help in combating this problem, the Zayse feel that they have been neglected. Christian agricultural and environmental workers could perhaps minister the love of Jesus to the Zayse through this avenue.
* Ask the Lord to burden the hearts of Ethiopian Christians to share the Gospel with the Zayse.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Zayse.
* Pray that God will give the Zayse believers many opportunities to share Christ with their families and friends.
* 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 Zayse church for the glory of His name!