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Zenaga in Mauritania

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Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
1,100 Hassaniyya Islam 0.00 % 0.00 %   

Zenaga in Mauritania

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Introduction / History
Zenaga is a Berber language. Berbers generally prefer to call themselves Amazigh, meaning free men. They are the original inhabitants of North Africa, which has been overrun by the Roman Empire, and later by the Arabs in the 600s. Since that time, they have largely been "Arabized" meaning their language and culture have been influenced by the Arabs. But they still yearn for freedom no matter where they live.

In general, Berbers feel that the more powerful Arabs have controlled them, though the two groups have often worked together throughout history. Berber groups like the Zenaga speakers would love to have complete freedom, but there are more powerful groups wherever they live. In the case of the Zenagas who live in Mauritania, the Moors are a powerful ethnic group.

Zenaga was widely spoken in the country until around 500 years ago but after a military victory for the Moors, the language of most tribes gradually changed to Hassaniya Arabic – albeit with some vocabulary loaned from Zenaga. Marabout tribes, who specialised in Islamic religious learning, retained the language for the longest time.

Where are they located?
Zenaga speakers live in either south-western Mauritania or northern Senegal. In the mid-20th century, they were described as a group of nomadic tribes in an area roughly bounded by Saint-Louis and Podor (Senegal), and Boutilimit and Nouakchott (in Mauritania) although not within these cities. The people group would therefore be mostly located in and around the town of Mederdra, in the what is now known as the Trarza region.

What are their lives like?
It is highly possible that Zenaga Berbers are not satisfied with their economic situation or the lack of good roads, potable water or electricity. Their lifestyle has traditionally been rural, nomadic and tribal and the use of the Zenaga has declined over time in favour of Hassaniya Arabic. The Trarza region of Mauritania is mainly desert apart from a thin belt of arable farmland along the Senegal River and its delta.

What are their beliefs?
The primary religion practised by the Zenaga Berbers in Mauritania is Sunni Islam, the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims follow the teachings of the Qur 'an and consider the first four caliphs to be the rightful successors of Muhammad. As some Zenaga people have traditionally held a role as marabouts (religious leaders and teachers), they may be a relatively high level of education and influence in their communities.

What are their needs?
There are few if any Christian materials in their language. The decline of the language is likely to correspond with a long-term sense of cultural decline and a concern about how or whether they can pass on their way of life to the next generation. The language is considered highly endangered and is mainly spoken by people aged over 45 years of age.

Prayer Points
Scripture Prayers for the Zenaga in Mauritania.
There are no Zenaga speakers who have embraced Jesus Christ, so pray for the Holy Spirit to move in their communities in the coming years.
Pray for opportunities for Zenaga speakers to hear and respond to Jesus Christ, despite the fact they live in a closed country.
Pray for a Disciple-Making movement to move through Zenaga communities in both Mauritania and Senegal
For guidance as the Zenaga people face uncertainty and seek to maintain their culture in Mauritanian society

Dubié, Paul (1940). "L 'îlot berbérophone de Mauritanie", Bulletin de l 'IFAN; 2, pp. 315–325.

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Country: Mauritania
Continent: Africa
Region: Africa, West and Central
Persecution Rank:20 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Trarza region: Atlantic coast to Mederdra
(Source: Ethnologue 2018)
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Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Zenaga
People Name General: Zenaga
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 102734
Joshua Project People ID: 11621
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 1,100
Population all Countries: 1,600
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Arab World
People Cluster: Berber-Saharan
People Name General: Zenaga
Ethnic Code: CMT32i
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Hassaniyya
Language Code (ISO): mey    Ethnologue Listing
Secondary Languages:
Zenaga (Unknown)
Total Languages: 2
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity0.00 %(Evangelical: 0.00 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam100.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 1   Less than 2% Evangelical. Some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: 2002-2005
New Testament:
Complete Bible: None Reported
Possible Bible Sources: Forum of Bible Agencies
 World Bible Finder
 World Christian Resource Directory
 Gospel Go
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching
Audio RecordingsAudio New Testament
Audio RecordingsOnline New Testament
Audio RecordingsOral Bible stories
Audio RecordingsStory of Jesus audio
Film / Video / Animation
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Hassaniyya
Film / VideoLUMO film of Gospels
Film / VideoWorld Christian Videos
GeneralBible for Children
GeneralGospel resources links
Mobile AppDownload audio Bible app as APK file
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Zenaga in Mauritania

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Berber-Saharan     Africa, West and Central    
      Zenaga Mauritania    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Zenaga in Mauritania          
      Religion Language  
      Islam     Hassaniyya  
    All Religions                              

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