Introduction / History
The Comorians (also known as the Mauri or the Mahorais) live on the island of Madagascar, which is located off the southeastern coast of Africa. They primarily inhabit the northwestern region of the island, centering on the seaport city of Mahajanga. Their heritage can be traced back to a blend of settlers from the past: Iranian traders, mainland Africans, Arabs, and Malagasy. Additional groupings of Comorians live scattered throughout the neighboring Comoros Islands.
The island, officially known as the "Democratic Republic of Madagascar," was a territory of France until 1958. In 1975, the takeover of a Marxist regime resulted in riots among the Comorians in the city of Mahajanga. This takeover ended in the massacre of 1,400 Comorians, with several thousand others fleeing to the nearby Comoros Islands.
What are their lives like?
Most of the islanders work as farmers, fishermen, or in industry. Some farmers raise cattle, along with a few sheep, goats, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Their basic diet consists of rice, crustaceans, fresh fish, potatoes, and yams. Other crops that are grown are corn, sugar cane, apples, and citrus fruits.
Although young people wear Western style clothing, traditional clothing is still common among the adults. While in town, a Comorian man will typically wear a white cotton garment and a knee-length shirt, sometimes with a white jacket and white skull cap. Out of town, a long cloth sarong (colorful skirt) is worn. Most women wear long, colorful cotton dresses with bright shawls as face coverings. Others prefer wearing black robes that cover their heads.
Children are expected to help with family duties such as farming, fishing, and caring for the animals. For recreation they enjoy dancing, singing, and playing instruments, especially horns and drums.
Between a quarter and one-third of the Comorians live in cities, where the best housing is found. City homes typically have three stories and are very steeply angled. Similar to the Indonesian styles, these homes are built with the kitchens on top, the living quarters in the middle, and storage on the first level.
What are their beliefs?
The Comorians of Madagascar are nearly all Shafiite Muslims. Surprisingly, however, mosque attendance is very low. Mixed with their Islamic practices, there is a strong involvement in occultism and spirit possession. Local Malagasy folk religions have also had a strong influence on the people.
Traditionally, the Comorians have been very resistant to any kind of religious change; however, they are gradually becoming more open to change.
What are their needs?
The physical needs of the Comorians are numerous. Major problems in Madagascar include poverty, inadequate housing, disease, and poor roads. Educational levels are low and very few children attend school. There is a shortage of hospitals and doctors, and many suffer from illnesses and malnutrition. Moral decline has led to a large number of sexually active teenagers, resulting in the transmitting of venereal diseases. Such problems contribute to a high death rate.
The spiritual needs of the Comorians are even greater. Though there is freedom of religion in Madagascar, evangelism is not well received by the Shafiite Muslims. Their commitment to Islam, coupled with their involvement in occultic practices, has made them difficult to reach. Liberal Christianity in mission schools and seminaries has also undermined mission zeal towards the Comorians.
Unfortunately, progress has been very slow. The Scriptures as well as Christian radio broadcasts are already available in their native language; however, there are only a few known Comorian believers.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Madagascar and share Christ with the Comorians.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Comorian Christians.
* Pray that God will give missions agencies creative methods of reaching the people of Madagascar.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to create a hunger for the Truth within the hearts of the Comorians.
* Pray for God to send Christian teachers and medical teams to work among the Comorians.
* Pray that a strong local church will be raised up among the Comorians of Madagascar.