Introduction / History The history of the Ainu is shrouded in uncertainty. Why they came to be hated by their fellow Muslims is a mystery. Their Persian language suggests they probably originated in Central Asia long ago. Kashgar is one of the most isolated cities in China. To reach Kashgar from Beijing once required two years' travel by camel. It is located more than 3,000 kilometers (1,850 mi.) from Beijing and is even a grueling three-day bus journey from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Kashgar today has more in common with nearby Pakistan than with the rest of China.
For reasons that are unclear, the majority of Uygur despise the Ainu and call them Abdal, which means "beggar". The Uygur refuse to intermarry with the Ainu, who are linguistically, culturally, and socially a distinct people group.
What are their lives like? Most Ainu lead simple lives, herding sheep and goats. Some Ainu men in recent years have been forced to travel to other large cities in Xinjiang to seek employment in industry and construction.
What are their beliefs? The Ainu are Sunni Muslims who worship in mosques scattered throughout their villages. They have been described as a "caste of circumcisers." Few Ainu have ever studied Arabic, so even the religious leaders of their communities are unable to read the Koran.
Although no trace of Christianity remains in Kashgar today, it was once a church center for much of Central Asia. Kashgar was the appointed seat of a Nestorian metropolitan bishop in the thirteenth century. When the intrepid explorer Marco Polo visited Kashgar at the time, he noted that it contained "Turks who are Nestorian Christians who have churches of their own, and they are mixed and dwell with the inhabitants as the Jews in these parts live with Christians." Today, Kashgar is a stronghold of Islam, and the Ainu have no knowledge of the gospel message. Only a handful has been evangelized, primarily as a result of listening to the recently begun weekly gospel radio broadcasts in the Uygur language. Being a despised people, the Ainu eagerly desire the acceptance of their Uygur neighbors, an acceptance that makes the practice of Islam a prerequisite and the acceptance of Christianity unlikely.
What are their needs? Without the guidance of Christ, these people are like sheep without a shepherd. They need the good shepherd in their families and communities.
Prayer Points Pray for the spiritual blindness and bondage to the evil one to be removed so they can understand and respond to Christ.
Pray for the Lord to provide for their physical and spiritual needs as a testimony of his power and love.
Pray that the Ainu people will have a spiritual hunger that will open their hearts to the King of kings.
Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them. * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people. * Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.
The Ainu, who number approximately 6,500 people, live scattered over a wide area of northwest China. The Ainu inhabit the six counties of Hetian, Luopu, Moyu, Shache, Yingjisha, and Shulekuche, near the famous ancient city of Kashgar. Kashgar, a giant oasis 1,290 meters (4,230 ft.) above sea level, is almost totally inhabited by Uygur, Uzbek, Tajik, and Kirgiz Muslims. (Source: Operation China, 2000)