Introduction / History Riffians are a North African Berber tribe who belong to a much larger group of Berbers known as the Shilha. The Shilha Berbers are divided into three main groups: the Northern (Rif) Berber, the Southern (Sousi) Berber, and the Central (Beraber) Berber. The Rif Berbers are composed of 19 individual tribes.
The Arabic word rif means "the edge of the cultivated area" and aptly describes Riffian territory. Dwelling on the harsh slopes of the Rif Mountains in Morocco and Algeria, the Riffians inhabit a land of deserts, mountains, and rolling fields. The Africans call this entire region Maghrib. Between 670 and 700 A.D., Muslims conquered the Maghrib.
In recent years, many North Africans migrated into western Europe. By the early 1980s, over half a million workers, including many Riffians, had moved there. In the later 1980s, however, the European labor market closed to new workers.
What are their lives like? In North Africa, the Riffians earn their livelihood from the fig and olive trees that cover the mountain slopes. Income is supplemented through job opportunities in major cities of Europe. Such jobs lure up to one-third of the male population for most of the year.
For the unemployed Riffians, immigration to Europe was once an option, but that choice has declined in the late twentieth century due to restrictions on immigration. However, decades of immigration have left a large Riffian community in France. For some, service in the army and in the factories of France during World War I was an avenue of migration. When the war ended, many remained in France. Others arrived after World War II when there was a labor shortage in France. Recently, others went as merchants, since France is one of the most important trading partners with North Africa.
As the number of immigrants in France increased, so did various kinds of racial discrimination, including problems in housing and unemployment. Initially, the immigrants were males who lived in low-standard hostels and worked at low-paying jobs such as construction, street cleaning, mining, or heavy work in steel assembly. With the beginning of economic stress in 1974, many French began to reclaim these jobs; thus, the government began to restrict immigration.
In the Riffian family, as many as three or four generations live together in one small room, sharing everything. The father is the head of the family, and ancestry is traced through the males. The family structure is somewhat of an authoritarian democracy. While the father is responsible for controlling all household matters, he must obtain the agreement of the rest of the family as well. Banishment from the family is considered the ultimate punishment.
What are their beliefs? The Riffians are almost all Muslims, although their religious practices are based more on traditions and the decisions of the community rather than on the Koran (Islam's holy book). Riffian society is organized around two main systems: Islam and the tribe. However, there are many differences between urban and rural societies. In urban areas, orthodox Islam prevails; whereas, in rural areas, ancient beliefs and customs are still intermingled with the Muslim faith.
What are their needs? Many Riffians are searching for answers beyond Muslim fundamentalism. Those in Algeria and Morocco do not have the freedom to follow Christ, but those in France do. In fact, a number of them have responded to recent Christian programs produced in France. However, the majority remain unreached, still needing an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
The number of North African immigrants living in France continues to be a serious social issue. The Riffian, among others, are at the bottom of the economic scale and are subject to racial prejudice. Christian workers are needed to show the love and acceptance of Jesus to the Riffians in France.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call French Christians to minister the love of Jesus to Riffians living among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint the efforts of missions agencies focusing on the Riffians.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Riffians, resulting in many conversions.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of Riffians towards the Gospel.
* Pray that God will give Riffian believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who, through intercession, will begin breaking up the soil in the hearts of the Riffian people to receive the seed of the Gospel.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised among the Riffians of France. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.