Introduction / History The various Oromo people groups are the largest, most widely dispersed groups in Ethiopia. They also reside in Kenya, Somalia and Egypt. Composed of approximately a dozen tribal clusters, these peoples prefer just the term "Oromo" when speaking of themselves. Nearly all of these peoples speak mutually intelligible dialects of a language called "Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji". Although they retain similarities in their descent system, they differ considerably in religion, lifestyle, and political organization.
It is believed that the Oromo were pushed westward from the Horn of Africa by the Somali during the tenth century. Together with the Amhara and the Tigrai, they dominated the government and military classes of the Ethiopian Empire. In the 1700s and 1800s, these peoples became a prominent force in Abyssinian (Ethiopian) politics. During the nineteenth century, they converted to Islam.
What are their lives like? The Oromo are herdsmen with a warrior tradition. They determine a man's status by the number of livestock he owns. Virility and male attributes are considered desirable, with bravery and war skills being stressed. Riding, spear throwing, and fighting are also emphasized. Although warfare against enemies is honored, peace within the group is demanded.
The Oromo live in rural areas where they make a living primarily from raising animals along with some farming. The typical dwelling is a tukal, or a circular hut made of acacia branches covered with grass mats. The cone-shaped roof has an opening that allows smoke to escape. Villages are made up of 10-80 families. Their staple diet includes durra (a cereal grain), maize, beans, rice, milk, meat, and wild fruits. Coffee and tea are both popular beverages.
The Oromo family is headed by an authoritarian father who has the right to expect total obedience. Men usually have only one wife, and children are considered a necessity. The more children and grandchildren a man has, the greater his prestige.
Oromo boys are taught to use a spear and begin training at an early age to become warriors. The killing of a man was customarily a part of becoming a full-fledged adult, as well as part of certain festivals. In fact, traditionally, a man ready to marry was expected to present part of a man who he had killed to his bride. Wild animals are now used instead of humans.
One basic value of the Oromo is tokuma, which is identification with the group. The religious, social, political, and economic life of the Oromo revolves around this. Cooperation is central to this system, especially in work arrangements.
Oromo have a reputation for being easygoing and sociable. They value hospitality and almsgiving, especially to relatives and friends.
Some Oromo have moved to the towns, attracted by employment opportunities and modern schooling. Others have entered national security forces, the industrial labor force, or fields of trade, transportation, and education.
What are their beliefs? The majority of the Oromo are Muslim; however, their traditional religion is still practiced by a minority of the population. These ethnic religionists worship a supreme being named Waqa. Wadaja feasts are organized on various occasions, and livestock is sacrificed in Waqa's honor. Today, these feasts reflect a Muslim influence.
Many people still believe that objects such as trees, springs, and rocks have spirits. It is also believed that spirits called jinn may take possession of people. While fasting during Ramadan (the Muslim holy month) is observed by most adults, celebration of other Muslim festivals is limited.
What are their needs? Oromo villages usually have no electricity. Medical care is poor, and access to medicine is limited. Their water supply comes from rivers and springs.
Ethiopia was one of the first nations embracing Christianity. Translations of Bible portions began as early as 1870. Yet they took almost 100 years to be completed. The New Testament was finished first in 1979, with the whole Bible being completed in 1995. However, this version uses a different alphabet than the one currently being taught.
Today, there is a great need for Christian workers among the Oromo. Also, leadership training and discipleship of new believers is critical if growth is to continue and new churches are to be planted.
Prayer Points * Pray that the Lord of the Harvest would call Ethiopian Christians to work among the Oromo.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the church planters that are focusing on the Oromo.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Pray that God will give the Oromo believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Oromo who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* 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 holy Oromo church for the glory of His name!