Introduction / History
The Tigre are traditionally nomadic shepherds who live in Eritrea and northeastern Sudan. They are distinguished from other regional peoples by the fact that they possess hereditary slaves. Historically, most of the Tigre have been scattered between Eritrea's northern highlands and western lowlands. They have somewhat shifted into Sudan in search of water and grazing lands.
The Tigre, descendants of the ancient Egyptians, are generally tall and have narrow noses and brown skin. Most of the Tigre converted to Islam during the 1800s, influenced by Muslim Arab missionaries. Since their language, Tigre, has no script of its own, most literate Tigre write in Arabic. The Tigre in Eritrea have suffered from recent droughts, famine, and civil war. Although many are still nomads, most are semi-nomadic; others have become settled farmers.
What are their lives like?
The nomadic Tigre raise cattle, goats, sheep, and camels. These animals are sold in the markets, and the earnings are used to buy essential items. The nomads do not live in villages but roam about the countryside with their herds. They live in round huts, usually covered with mats made of woven goat or camel hair.
The semi-nomadic Tigre usually spend half the year in the northern highlands and the other half in the western lowlands. Their villages usually have only two or three huts. Their huts are also round and are covered with mats made of woven goat hair. They also tend livestock, usually cattle and goats.
The settled Tigre farmers raise corn, sorghum, wheat, barley, legumes, and linseed. They live in villages, and their homes are usually round with cone-shaped roofs made of branches and leaves. The walls are typically made of palm mats. Most of the farmers raise goats and, occasionally, cattle. Oxen, mules, and donkeys are used as pack animals. With unpredictable amounts of rainfall and families averaging seven children, many Tigre are dependent on government aid for survival.
The Tigre's traditional animal skin clothing has now been almost entirely replaced with commercial clothes. Their diet consists of dairy products, fruit, grain, and some slaughtered stock. The men tend the livestock while the women carry water from local water holes, build the huts, and care for the children. Tigre women like to wear jewelry, especially silver bracelets and strings of pearls. They also prefer to make their clothing from colored cloth, which is available at trading markets. Tobacco, coffee, and beer are frequent indulgences.
Tigre society is patrilineal, which means that the line of descent is traced through the males. Marriages are arranged by the parents; however, wedding customs have varied somewhat since the Tigre converted to Islam. Some of the people now adhere to Islamic customs, while others continue to follow the traditional customs. Members of a tribe usually follow the same set of rites and customs.
What are their beliefs?
Although the Tigre profess to be Sunni Muslims, most of them practice folk Islam, which is a blend of Islam and ethnic beliefs. Their traditional beliefs include animal sacrifices and rain making rituals. Sacrifices of livestock or corn are offered whenever they think their sins are numerous. They believe that the sacrifice becomes the scapegoat for their sins.
The Tigre also believe in an evil spirit named Zar, who possesses people and causes accidents, illnesses, and sometimes death. The people depend on shamans (priests) to cure the sick, communicate with the spirits, and control events. The shamans also exorcise demons and perform services by entering into a trance.
What are their needs?
Only a few Tigre have accepted Christ. Prayer is the key to reaching this people group with the Gospel.
* Pray for God to grant His favor and wisdom to missions agencies focusing on the Tigre.
* Ask the Lord to call additional long-term workers to live and work among them.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Tigre Christians in Eritrea.
* Pray that the Lord will give these converts boldness to share Jesus with their own people.
* Pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via the Jesus film among the Tigre.
* Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Tigre of Eritrea.