Introduction / History Most of the Jula live along the trade routes of the Ivory Coast. Jula clans have also settled in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali. They speak Jula, a Mande language that belongs to the Nilo-Congo language family. The name jula means "itinerant trader," and the people are well respected for their trading abilities.
The Jula are the descendants of the Malinke (Mandingo), inheritors of the ancient Mali empire. Situated between the Arab world to the north and the black African nations to the south, Mali has always been the cultural crossroads of western Africa. The result is a rich cultural mix that the Jula contribute to through their music, dance, and beautiful jewelry.
By the time the Mali Empire was at its peak in the 1300s, the Jula had made Mali their trade base for West Africa. Later, the Maninka rulers of Mali began spreading Islam throughout the African plains, and the Jula became strong converts.
What are their lives like? The Jula 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 Jula 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 Jula communities became politically subservient to the kings and chiefs of other ethnic groups. As merchants, it often benefited them to maintain good relationships with their neighbors.
Among the Jula, 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 Jula still practice polygamy (multiple spouses) 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 Jula have great respect for the elderly, especially if a man is an Islamic scholar.
The fundamental moral principles of the Jula 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 Jula 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. 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. Few of the Jula are Christians.
The New Testament has been translated into the Jula language. Christian laborers and 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 Mali to live and work among the Jula.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Mali through worship and intercession.
* Pray for the effective use of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials in the Jula language.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Jula Christians.
* Pray that these believers will have opportunities to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a holy and zealous Jula church for the glory of His name!