Introduction / History The Northern Kurds of Lebanon are actually part of a much greater Kurdish population. They are made up of a number of clans, tribes, and tribal confederations, many of which have been in existence for thousands of years. This large people group shares several important and common ties. For instance, they speak a group of closely related languages; they have a shared culture, they have a common geographical homeland, and they have a common sense of identity. Kurds are basically more alike than are other people groups, and they feel it.
Most of the Kurds living in Lebanon came from southeastern Turkey. The first Kurds arrived during the French Mandate (a period when the French occupied Lebanon) and were able to secure Lebanese citizenship. Since 1961, a few thousand additional Kurds have obtained residence permits in Lebanon. However, their citizenship has never been finalized, so they are regarded as non-citizens.
What are their lives like? The Kurds of Lebanon have been in a weak position both socially and economically. Though ill-paid for their unskilled manual labor, they cannot press for better conditions for fear of deportation.
Since Lebanon's civil war began in 1975, Kurds have been among the country's most oppressed people. Many of them, as well as a number of Syrians and Shi'ite Muslims from southern Lebanon, have been massacred in the war. Others have fled to the beach slums of southern Beirut. Some have returned to Syria because of the bleak conditions in Lebanon.
The Kurds are noted for their elaborate and colorful national costumes, which are made of both local and imported fabrics. The men's costumes consist of baggy, colored trousers and plain shirts with huge sleeves split at the wrist and tied at the elbow. Brilliantly colored vests and sashes are also worn. Women usually wear heavy clothing that is brightly embroidered. However, many rural dwellers have abandoned their native costumes for western style dress.
The most important Kurdish national festival is the New Year celebration which is held on March 21st. This is a long ceremony that may continue for a week or more. Many specific foods and condiments are prepared in advance. Special flowers are grown for the occasion and branches covered with fresh buds are cut and made to adorn the feast. New clothes are worn, and some old pottery is broken for good luck. People visit each other's houses, and old feuds and misunderstandings are reconciled for the occasion. Gifts are given by seniors to their juniors in age, and high ranking social figures are paid visits and brought gifts.
What are their beliefs? Nearly all Kurds are Muslims, most being Shafiite Sunnis. They first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. They look to Islam as a basis for social justice.
However, despite being predominantly Sunnis, religion has created deep rifts among the Kurds. These differences also have prejudicial overtones towards the lower class. Many of the dispossessed Kurd minorities have become associated with the secret and unorthodox sects of Islam - the most fervently rebellious people in Kurdish society.
What are their needs? The Islamic religion is very difficult to influence and very little progress has been made. Though the New Testament and the Jesus film are available in their language, there are only a few known believers among them.
Many of the Kurds living in Lebanon are regarded as non-citizens. They live in fear of being deported, and accept sub-standard wages for their labors. They need to know that they are worth something to God and are valuable in His eyes.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Lebanon and share Christ with the Kurds.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Muslim Kurds towards Christianity.
* Pray that God will raise up Lebanese Christians as a clear Gospel witness to Muslim Kurds.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Kurdish Christians.
* Ask the Lord to give missions agencies strategies for reaching the Kurdish population.
* Pray that a strong local church will be raised up among the Kurds of Lebanon.