Introduction / History
The Yao people once sold slaves, ivory, tobacco, and cloth. Arab Muslim traders from coastal East Africa supplied them with firearms so they could raid neighboring tribes and take captives for the lucrative slave trade. When the British imperialists began to invade Yao lands, they stopped the Yao from their slave raids because of pressure from missionaries. This made the Yao people more entrenched in the religion of the Muslims they traded with. As Yao chiefs became Muslim, the common people did as well. Today the Yao have a Muslim majority.
Where are they located?
The Yao people once lived on a mountain called Yao, where they were given their name. They later moved to Lake Malawi. Most Yao people live in Malawi or Mozambique, but a smaller number live in other African countries including Tanzania.
What are their lives like?
Today most are subsistence farmers or fishermen on the shores of Lake Malawi. Others are traders and traveling businessmen. Their main language is Yao also called Chiyao. One- fourth are pre-literate.
The heart of Yao life is the village with 75 to 100 people. The village chief has a lot of power, though they are a matriarchal society where descent comes from the mother's line.
What are their beliefs?
Islamic religious system. However, they also practice pre-Islamic rituals which involve witchcraft and ancestor cults. In recent years there has been a move among the Yao people towards more orthodox Islam, but they are also more receptive to the gospel.
What are their needs?
The Yao people need regular contact with people who will live lives made victorious in Jesus Christ.
* Pray that Yao chiefs will turn their hearts to Jesus, and encourage others to do the same.
* Pray that efforts to train Yao believers to reach others will result in a strong church planting movement.
* Pray for new harvesters who will joyfully live among the Yao people, serve, them, and help them to see what a Holy Spirit transformed life can do for a community.
* Pray that the Lord will raise up many who will use the Chiyao Bible as a foundation to produce radio broadcasts, gospel recordings, and culturally-appropriate worship music.
Text source: Keith Carey