Introduction / History One of the most striking characteristics of Sudan is the diversity of its people. The Sudanese are divided into 19 major ethnic groups and nearly 600 sub-groups. In addition, they speak more than 100 different languages and dialects.
The Gimma are a sub-group of the Jaaliyin Arab (also known as the Gaalin). They live between southern Nubia and the Gezira region of Sudan. Other sub-groups of the Jaaliyin include the Dangala, Hassaniya, Kawahla, and the Husaynat. These Jaaliyin Arab claim to be direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed, but some ethnologists consider them to be an "Arabized" Nubian group.
Sudan's leaders proudly boast that they are the leaders of the Islamic revolution in Africa. The Arab minority has used this as a tool to strengthen their personal control of the economy and their political power. The tragic cost of this has been more than a million people killed, an economy devastated, and a country divided.
What are their lives like? Those Sudanese who consider themselves Arabs are generally racially mixed, and many are indistinguishable from blacks living in southern Sudan. Despite a common language and religion, the "Arabs" are not a unified group. They differ greatly in occupation and way of life and consist of city dwellers, village farmers, and nomadic herdsmen. Arabs have historically been divided into tribes based on presumed descent from a common ancestor. Each tribe or cluster of tribes is assigned to a larger tribal grouping. Today, this system has largely disappeared in the cities and settled villages and exists only among the nomads of the plains.
Little is known about the specific lifestyle and culture of the Gimma, thus, some assumptions have been made in this profile. About two-thirds of Sudan's population is engaged in subsistence farming or grazing, though only about five percent of the land is suitable for farming. Many farmers live in the southern part of the country or in the grasslands of central and western Sudan. Sorghum and millet are the main crops grown there, but wheat, corn and barley are also raised. In Sudan as a whole, the main crops are cotton, peanuts, sesame, gum arabic, durra (a type of sorghum), sugarcane, coffee, and dates.
Since water is scarce, rural settlements in Sudan are usually clustered near sources of water. In the north, villages are often strung out along the rivers. The types of houses built vary from north to south. In the north, houses are made of sun-dried bricks and have flat-topped roofs. In the central and southern portions of the country, there are round huts with thatched, cone-shaped roofs made of grass, millet stalks, and wooden poles. In central Sudan, walls made of millet stalks often surround compounds.
Though towns are few and widely scattered, about one-fifth of Sudan's population can be considered urban. Southern Sudan was the least urbanized region in 1956, but has since seen much urban growth.
What are their beliefs? A major rift exists between the northern and southern parts of Sudan. The north is dominated by Muslims, most of whom speak Arabic and identify themselves as Arabs. The people of the south are primarily black Africans, who, for the most part, follow traditional African religions. Also, some Christians can be found in the south.
The Gimma are almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. Sunni Islam in Sudan, as in much of the rest of Africa, has been characterized by the formation of tariqas, or Muslim religious brotherhoods. The oldest of these tariqas is the Qadiriyah, which was introduced to Sudan from the Middle East in the sixteenth century. Another major brotherhood is the Khatmiyah, or Mirghaniyah, which was founded in the early nineteenth century.
What are their needs? The Gimma have some Christian resources available to them. Intercession and pioneer missions efforts are both needed to bring the Gimma to Christ.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to open the doors of Sudan to the preaching of the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Gimma who will proclaim the Gospel to their own people.
Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the few Gimma believers.
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 Gimma.