Introduction / History Most of the Dyula live along the trade routes of the Ivory Coast. Dyula clans have also settled in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau. The Dyula of Ghana live along the trade routes of the central western border adjoining the Ivory Coast. The name dyula means "itinerant trader," and the Dyula are respected for their trading abilities.
The Dyula are the descendants of the Malinke (Mandingo), inheritors of the ancient Mali empire. By the 1300s, Mande traders seeking gold reached the northern borders of Ghana, where they founded states to use as centers for gold trade. Later, the Maninka rulers of Mali began spreading Islam throughout the African plains, and the Dyula became strong converts.
Since Ghana's independence from Great Britain in 1960, the country has experienced seven coups. The Dyula have contributed much to the rich mixtures of peoples and traditions that make up Ghanaian culture.
What are their lives like? The Dyula live in clans, and the clan is the most important aspect of their lives. The people are fiercely loyal to their clans, defending them proudly. They express their history and devotion through the traditions of dance and storytelling. The father is the head of the family and inheritances are passed down from fathers to their sons. Older males possess the most power and influence.
The Dyula began settling in towns during the 1500s. Some founded their own independent villages; others chose to settle in larger towns for greater commercial opportunities. As a result, most Dyula communities became politically subservient to the kings and chiefs of other ethnic groups. As merchants, it benefited them to maintain good relationships with their neighbors.
Among the Dyula, there is generally a division of labor according to gender. Weaving, fighting, and studying Islam were traditionally male activities; while, spinning, cooking, and tending to the children were the responsibilities of the women. However, both men and women engaged in trade.
The Dyula still practice polygamy, and young people are encouraged to marry within their own clans. Marriages between cousins are preferred. Girls usually marry at age 16. It is surprising that nearly half of the population is under the age of 15 and few live beyond age 45. Therefore, the Dyula have great respect for the elderly, especially if a man is an Islamic scholar.
The fundamental moral principles of the Dyula include obedience, honesty, and dedication to their people. Such precepts are motivated by a sense of human dignity.
What are their beliefs? The majority of Dyula are Sunni Muslim. Most of the others, whom the Muslims call pagans, hold traditional animistic beliefs (believe that non-living objects have spirits). These "pagans" represent a small percentage of the country's population, while nearly two-thirds are Christians. West African Islam does, however, generally retain local traditions and is more tolerant of diversity than elsewhere. Muslim scholars are held in high esteem. They are responsible for educating the people in the teachings of the Koran.
Their religious ideals share several similarities with Christianity: the belief in one God who is eternal, creator, omniscient; the existence of protecting spirits (or angels); the concept of the sanctuary or the holy of holies; the Spirit of God who communicates; and analogies to explain complex concepts.
What are their needs? Ministry among Muslims is a difficult task. Only a tiny handful of the Dyula are Christians. Few Christian resources are available in the Dyula language. Christian laborers and additional evangelistic tools are needed to reach this Muslim tribe with the Gospel. Prayer is the first step toward seeing them reached with the Good News.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Ghana to live and work among the Dyula.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Ghana through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to the Dyula.
* Pray for the effective use of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials in the Dyula language.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Dyula Christians.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Dyula church for the glory of His name!