Introduction / History
The Garreh are a sub-tribe of a much larger ethnic group known as the Somali. The Somali live scattered across the northeastern portion of Africa, commonly called the "Horn of Africa," and the Middle East. Those living in Kenya are concentrated mainly in the Wajiir and Mandera districts.
The Garreh, like other Somali, are typically tall and slender with long, oval faces and straight noses. They vary in skin color from jet black to light brown. The members of a clan are very loyal to each other, spreading out to ensure that there is enough land and water for all of their herds. The smallest unit of their society is the family.
As a whole, the Somali are one of the most homogenous people groups in Africa, adhering to a single faith (Islam), language (Somali), and cultural heritage. However, sub-tribes such as the Garreh are treated as a separate people group due to clan conflicts and language distinctions. Their native language is called Garreh.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Garreh are nomadic herders. They live in portable huts made of bent saplings that are covered with animal skins or woven mats; the women live in separate huts. The tents are easily collapsible so that they can be loaded on pack animals and moved along with the herds. Villages are made up of several related families. Their huts are arranged in a circle or semi-circle surrounding the cattle pens. The village is enclosed by a thorn-shrub hedge to protect them from intruders or wild animals. The men's responsibilities include caring for the herds of camels, cattle, and goats. The women are in charge of both homemaking and home building. They milk the animals, cook, and tend to their families. The nomads look down upon people who work with their hands, and the craftsmen among them are considered a part of the lower class.
The moving patterns of the Garreh nomads are dependent on the unpredictable grazing, and climate of the area in which they live. If water or grazing land becomes scarce, the families pack up their portable huts and move across the desert as a single, extended family unit. The wealth of most Garreh is in their herds. Each wife controls some part of her husband's herd, although he remains the legal owner.
According to Islamic law, a man is permitted to have as many as four wives. Polygamy is commonly practiced among the Garreh. Unfortunately, the divorce rate is very high. The children of divorced parents are usually split by gender; the wife takes the girls and the husband takes the boys.
Formerly the Garreh's diet consisted almost entirely of milk products; however, maize and rice are now usually included. Chewing qat, a mildly hallucinogenic stimulant, is a favorite social pastime. Garreh truck drivers often chew qat to stay awake during long trips.
What are their beliefs?
The Somali tribes were converted to Islam in the 1400s. Today, the Garreh are virtually all Shafiite Muslims. They are very orthodox in their religious practices. Some even believe that they descended from Arab Muslims. However, linguistic research shows this is not the case.
Although the Garreh are staunch Muslims, few of them have a deep understanding of their faith. They are a very proud people who consider Christians to be inferior. Muslims consider Jesus to be a prophet, a teacher, and a good man, but not God's son. They also believe that all men will give account for their actions after they die. They believe that they will be judged by their good works and by their knowledge of the Koran. Muslims say prayers five times a day while facing Mecca. These prayers involve a certain pattern of kneeling and bowing.
What are their needs?
In recent years, the northeastern regions of Africa have suffered from severe drought. Healthcare facilities are also insufficient to meet the needs of the people. Christian medical teams and supplies are desperately needed.
* Ask God to send forth medical missionaries and supplies to help meet the needs of the Garreh.
* Pray that the Lord will raise up additional missionaries who can effectively reach out to Muslims.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio and television to the Garreh.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Garreh.