Introduction / History
The name "Berber" is derived from the Latin word barbari, meaning "barbarians." This term was used by the Romans in the third century A.D. to describe the "people of the Maghrib." (The Maghrib refers to the regions of North Africa that were conquered by Muslims between 670 and 700 A.D. It included Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the western portion of Libya.). The Berbers call themselves the Imazighen, which means "man of noble origin." Thus you have a very different take on what the Berber peoples are like. Public opinion polls in France indicate that many French suspect these "barbarians" have an inclination towards crime.
Spain and France each used to have colonial holdings in North Africa where the Berbers originate. Berbers and Arabs from these same places were given the chance to immigrate to France at different times during the 20th century. For unemployed Berbers, immigration to Europe was once an option, but that choice declined in the late 20th century due to restrictions on immigration. Decades of immigration have left a large Berber community in France. Most of the Southern Berbers in France today have been there for a couple of generations.
Where are they located?
Like other Muslim minorities, the Berber peoples in France are likely to live in run-down neighborhoods in Paris and Marseilles.
What are their lives like?
Like other Muslim minorities, the Berbers feel like the French discriminate against them and look down upon them, much like the ancient Romans who called them "barbarians." Most have low-paying jobs or are unemployed. But the Berbers in France have made their mark; some have excelled as musicians, actors, athletes, politicians, or journalists.
What are their beliefs?
Although they embraced Islam as a new religion, the Berbers also kept their pre-Islamic cultural and ritual traditions. The acceptance of Islam and the adoption of Arabic ways never completely erased their Berber culture. Although they are nominally Sunni Muslims, most Berbers have little knowledge of the practices of the Koran and other dimensions of Middle Eastern Islam. Those in France either become more secularized like the French majority or cling to Islam as part of their heritage and culture.
What are their needs?
The Southern Berbers in France need someone to share the ways of Jesus with them and help them to thrive physically and spiritually.
* Ask the Lord to burden the hearts of the French believers for the Southern Berbers who live among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to give creative ideas for evangelism to mission agencies focusing on the Muslims in France.
* Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Berber believers as they share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to call faithful intercessors who will daily stand in the gap for the Berbers in Europe.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Southern Berbers in France.
ReferencesView Berber, Southern Shilha in all countries.