Introduction / History The Kabyle are an African Berber tribe located primarily in Morocco, Tunisia, western Libya, and the coastal mountain regions of northern Algeria. The Africans call this entire region of North Africa Maghrib. During the third century, the Romans named the people of the Maghrib Berber, which means "barbarian."
The Kabyle live in the rugged, well-watered al-Quabail Mountains. These inaccessible peaks (some as high as 7,000 feet) have long been a refuge for the Berbers, forming a base of resistance against the Romans, Vandals, Byzantine, and Arabs.
Emigration is becoming more common among the Berbers, and it is estimated that several million now live in European cities. More than 500,000 Kabyle have migrated to France. In the 1980s, however, the European labor market closed to new workers.
What are their lives like? In general, the Kabyle are sturdy, thrifty, hospitable lovers of the soil. They are also said to be proud, shrewd, persistent, and loyal. In particular, a passion for independence is deeply ingrained in their culture. Most memorable in their history was the great Kabyle uprising in 1871, which was suppressed by the French.
In Africa, most Kabyle are shepherds and farmers. For unemployed Kabyle, 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 working in the factories of France during World War I were avenues 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, additional Kabyle 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, most of the immigrants were males who lived in low-standard hostels and worked at low-paying jobs such as construction workers, street cleaners, miners, or manual laborers 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.
Preserving the family is important to the Kabyle. Even when a family member is forced by economic or social reasons to migrate to other countries, family ties remain strong. Family bonds are also strengthened by their marriage customs and inheritance rights. Often, an entire family lives in one small room, sharing everything. The father is the head of the family, and the family ancestry is traced through the males.
Traditional Kabyle dress for men includes a loosely flowing robe, a woolen lariat draped over a woolen cap, and a broad-brimmed straw hat. Women wear brightly colored cotton garments, usually woven in wavy stripes. Silk scarves cover their heads.
What are their beliefs? Although the Kabyle are practically all Muslims, they still retain many of their traditional beliefs, such as saint worship. They usually celebrate the Muslim holidays, visiting friends and neighbors during these festive times. Weddings are lengthy celebrations that often last several days.
What are their needs? Many Kabyle are searching for answers beyond Muslim fundamentalism. Those in North Africa do not have the freedom to follow Christianity, but those in France do. Although a number have responded to recent Christian programs produced in France, there are still many who remain unreached.
The full Bible and the Jesus film are available to the Kabyle in their own language. However, the stronghold of Islam must first be broken through prayer before this people can be reached with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to burden the hearts of French Christians for the Kabyle who live among them.
* Pray that the Jesus film will effectively reveal the person of Jesus to the Kabyle.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Kabyle who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Kabyle believers as they share Christ with their families and friends.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Kabyle church for the glory of His name!