Introduction / History
Most of the world's Abazinians live in the nations of Russia and Georgia. However, a significant community can be found living in the neighboring country of Turkey. While they are scattered throughout much of the country, the largest concentration of Abazinians is located along the Black Sea coast in north-central Turkey.
In the fifteenth century, the Ottoman Turks conquered the Caucasus Mountain region of Russia and Georgia. At that time, many of the native Abazinians converted from Christianity to Islam. The Russians, however, gradually took control of the region, and by the late 1800s, they dominated the Muslim Abazinians. Feeling threatened by Christian Russia, many Abazinians accepted an offer of refuge from Muslim Turkey and moved there. In recent years, the Abazinians have begun to be assimilated into mainstream Turkish culture and, as a result, are in danger of losing their identity as a separate ethnic group in Turkey.
What are their lives like?
Little is known about the lives of the Abazinians in Turkey; however, it is known that they have been largely assimilated into Turkish culture. Assumedly, they live much like other rural Turks throughout Turkey, although they have attempted to preserve their traditional culture through festivals and organizations. In addition, the Abazinians have retained their native tongue, which is one of the most complex languages on earth. This language has more than 50 consonants, with numerous pronunciations for each one. Because of the difficulty of their own language, the Abazinians are adept at learning other languages.
The great majority of Abazinians are farmers and livestock producers. Tobacco is their major crop, but tea, fruits, and vegetables are also grown. Cattle production is another important aspect of the Abazinian economy. Because of their livelihood, nine out of ten Abazinians live in rural areas. Their houses are built of brick or concrete and have either one or two stories. Most homes have verandas and balconies, where families enjoy spending time in good weather.
Most Abazinian women marry in their early twenties, but men often wait until their thirties or even forties. Marriage is forbidden with all possible relatives: individuals are not allowed to wed anyone with the same surname as any of their grandparents. In the past, marriages were arranged, but today men and women are free to select their own mates. Occasionally, a young woman will agree to a marriage, but her parents will not. If this occurs, the young man and his friends kidnap the young woman and take her to his house, where the marriage ceremony is performed. Whether or not the bride was abducted, her family does not attend the wedding. She is required to stand silent and secluded while her husband's family feasts and celebrates.
Abazinians highly value hospitality. A guest is given the same respect as a father or grandfather and is seated at a place of honor at the table. The arrival of a guest is accompanied by a ritual feast. Over wine, hosts and guests go through rounds of toasts, honoring each other and getting to know each other better. Providing hospitality in this way is a source of family pride.
What are their beliefs?
Most Abazinians are Sunni Muslims. Islam is a religion of works based on five basic "pillars," or requirements. Muslims must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." They must pray five times a day, facing Mecca, Islam's holy city. They are also required to give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in their lifetime.
What are their needs?
The Abazinians of Turkey desperately need to hear of Jesus as Savior. Turkey is officially a secular state with only a limited amount of religious freedom. Therefore, Christians are not completely free to share their faith. Fervent intercession is required to break Satan's hold on the Abazinians.
* Ask the Lord to call Christian Abazinians from Russia and Georgia to share Christ with their brothers in Turkey.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of Turkey's governmental leaders towards the preaching of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Abazinians who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that Christian literature and media will be made available to the Abazinians.
* Ask God to raise up intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Abazinians.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Abazinians.