Introduction / History
The Bajun are located primarily in the district of Lamu, Kenya on the coast of the Indian Ocean. They occupy the tiny island of Lamu, just north of the Tana River. This small island is less than ten miles long and four miles wide. They are also reported to live in Tanzania.
The Bajun speak a language they call Tikuu, which is a form of Swahili. Although they are a mixture of Bantu, Somali, and Arabs, they still maintain themselves as a distinct cultural group.
The Bajun evolved when Arab traders began coming to the coast of Kenya to trade and eventually settle. Over the decades, as the Arabs intermarried with the African population, a Muslim community grew. As time passed, the Arabs introduced their social structure to the family-oriented Africans.
The way of life among the Bajun has changed very little in the last thousand years. Even now, no cars disturb the quiet life on the small island of Lamu.
What are their lives like?
Because the Bajun live so near water, many make their living from the ocean. They generally have occupations that are connected with the sea. Many are fishermen, sailors, ocean merchants, shipbuilders, and the like. Others are also involved in farming. Their main foods are coconut, fish, and rice. Their daily routines are interrupted by prayer times, meals, and an afternoon rest.
The Bajun follow the laws of Islam to conduct their affairs. Men are the working breadwinners. A Muslim judge, or kadhi, handles the criminal and civil disputes of the community.
A woman's place among the Bajun is usually within the home. She customarily leaves the house only to visit or to go to the market. Her visiting is done late in the afternoon when the housework is finished and the children are playing. The husbands like to gather at a men's meeting place or the mosque.
The men wear a kikois, which is a piece of material wrapped around the waist like a shirt, and rubber thongs on their feet. Bajun women wear discreet black veils with only their eyes visible to the world. Traditionally, a woman would wear a ring through the center of her nose, a gold disk in one pierced nostril, and several earrings through the tops of her ears. Today, these are regarded as unfashionable.
Children stay at home until the age of six or seven, when they are sent to the Muslim school. In school, they learn to read the Koran, perform daily prayers, and lead moral lives. Children are always the first to speak as they greet an elder with a kiss on the right hand. A young person always stands to offer his seat when an older person enters a room and is always the last to eat. A girl is taught to cook at about ten years of age. At puberty, she is no longer allowed to mix with boys who are not of her own household, and she can not leave the house without a female chaperone. When she goes out in public, she wears the traditional black, all-covering buibui garment.
What are their beliefs?
Almost all of the Bajun are Shafite Muslims. Their lives revolve around the mosque and daily prayer. In the course of saying five prayers a day, they also wash at least five times. Every Muslim parent insists on giving his child basic Islamic education. When a child is born, it is held up by the father, a friend, or a teacher, who recites the traditional call of prayer into its ear. From the moment of birth, the child is instructed in the basic teachings of Islam.
What are their needs?
Although food is readily available to most Bajun on the island, fresh water is not as easy to find. Water for drinking and cooking must sometimes be imported. Electricity, sewage systems, and running water are almost non-existent on the island.
Though the Bible has been translated into Swahili and missions agencies have focused on the Bajun, there are only a few known believers among them.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Kenya and Tanzania and assist the Bajun in improving their living conditions.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Bajun towards Christians so they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask God to provide open doors for missions agencies working among the Bajun.
* Pray that God will call out prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Bajun believers.
* Pray that God will complete the work begun in the hearts of these believers through adequate discipleship.
* Ask the Lord to raise a strong Church among the Bajun for the glory of His name!