Introduction / History
Large Yao kingdoms came into being as mighty Yao chiefs took control of the Niassa province of Mozambique in the 19th century. During that time, the Yao began to move from their traditional home in today's Malawi and Tanzania, which resulted in the Yao populations they now have. The most important result of the great chiefdoms was the turning of the whole nation to Islam around the turn of the 20th century and after the 1st World War. Because of their trade with the Arabs, the Yao chiefs (sultans) needed scribes who could read and write Arabic. The Islam teachers who were employed and lived in the Yao villages, made a significant impact on the Yao people because they could offer them literacy, a holy book, smart clothes and a square, instead of round, houses.
Furthermore, the Yao sultans strongly resisted the Portuguese, British and German colonial rule, which was viewed as a major threat to them. The British, who were seen as Christians, tried to stop the slave trade by attacking some of the Yao slave caravans near the coast. They freed the slaves and confiscated the ivory, which the slaves had been transporting. The greater Yao chief Mataka decided that becoming a Christian would have a negative economic impact on his people, while Islam offered them a social system, which would assimilate their traditional culture. Because of the political and ritual domination of the chiefs, their conversion to Islam caused their subjects to do likewise.
Where are they located?
Yao people live in most of the countries of southern Africa including Zambia, but most live in Mozambique, Tanzania or Malawi.
What are their lives like?
Yao people wear charms in a vein effort to protect themselves from ill health. They often use folk cures rather than modern medicine.
What are their beliefs?
The Islam which the Yao of Zambia have embraced is not the orthodox form, of the Middle East, but is totally intermingled with a traditional animistic belief system. It is often referred to as Folk Islam.
What are their needs?
Yao people need adequate medical facilities and schools that will help their children deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
*Pray that Yao people in Zambia will put their full trust in the God of the Bible rather than in the spirit world and charms.
*Pray for Yao believers in other countries to take the gospel to the Yao people in Zambia.
*Pray for a Disciple-Making movement to emerge among Yao communities in Africa.
Text source: Keith Carey