Introduction / History Most of the Jula (Dyula) live along the trade routes of the Ivory Coast. Jula clans have also settled in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau. The Jula of Burkina Faso primarily live along the trade routes in the southwestern part of the country. The name dyula means "itinerant trader," and the Jula (Dyula) are respected for their trading abilities.
Since the country received its independence from France in 1960, it has suffered a series of violent coups. It is currently being governed by the military National Revolutionary Council. The government has not interfered with the cultural traditions of the Jula, one of the two largest ethnic groups in the country. However, because of political instability, many Jula have immigrated to the Ivory Coast.
The Jula's ancient caste system of farmers, professionals, and slaves was disrupted when slavery was outlawed. Nevertheless, slaves still exist within their village hierarchy.
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 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 nearly one-third 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. Only a tiny handful of the Jula are Christians. There are some Christian resources currently available in Dyula, the native language of the Jula.
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 Burkina Faso to live and work among the Jula.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to the Jula.
* Pray for the effective use of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials in the Jula language.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Jula church for the glory of His name!