Introduction / History The Beraber are a North African Berber tribe that is part of a larger people group known as the Shilha Berber. This larger group is divided into the Northern (Rif) Berber, the Southern (Sousi) Berber, and the Central (Beraber) Berber. The Beraber live primarily in the wooded High Atlas Mountains of central Morocco, as well as in the Middle Atlas Mountains along the Algerian border. All of them speak Tamazight, and some also speak Arabic.
Africans call this entire region of North Africa Maghrib. In the third century, the Romans named the people of the Maghrib Berber, which means "barbarian." Between 670 and 700, Muslims conquered the Maghrib.
In recent years, the opportunity to migrate to western Europe offered a solution to Morocco's population explosion. By the early 1980s, over half a million workers, including many Beraber, had established themselves in Europe. In the latter 1980s, the European labor market closed to new workers.
What are their lives like? In North Africa, the Beraber live as semi-nomadic shepherds, primarily raising sheep and goats. They move their herds to the warm plains during the winter months, then to higher pastures during the spring and summer.
For unemployed Beraber, 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 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 of North Africa.
As the number of immigrants in France increased, so did various kinds of racial discrimination, including problems in housing and unemployment. Initially, immigrants were males who lived in low-standard hostels and worked at low-standard 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 Beraber 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. Although the father is responsible for controlling all household matters, he must also obtain the agreement of the rest of the family. Banishment from the family is considered the ultimate punishment.
What are their beliefs? The Beraber are almost all Muslim, although their religious practices are based more on traditions and the decisions of the community rather than on the Koran (Islam's holy book). Beraber 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? In the eighth century, invading Arabs forced the Beraber to accept Islam. Prior to that time, many were Christians. Those in Algeria and Morocco do not have the freedom to follow Christianity, but those in France do. In fact, a number have responded to recent Christian programs produced in France. There are still many who remain unreached; they only need an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
The number of North African immigrants living in France continues to be a serious social issue. The Beraber, 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 Beraber in France.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call French Christians to minister the love of Jesus to the Berabers living among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint the efforts of missions agencies focusing on Berabers.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of Berabers towards the Gospel.
* Pray that God will give Beraber believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* 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 Berabers of France. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.