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 have long been a refuge for the Berbers against the Romans, Vandals, Byzantine, and Arabs.
Emigration is becoming more common among the Berbers, and several million now live in Europe. Approximately 49,000 Kabyle have migrated to Belgium, the "crossroads of Europe." Belgium's location near England, France, and Germany has provided trade opportunities and prosperity, but it has also brought great conflict in disputes and wars.
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 of the 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 Belgium. Some arrived after World War II when there was a labor shortage in Belgium. Still others went as merchants, since Belgium is an important trading partner of North Africa. In the 1980s, however, the European labor market closed to workers.
Those Kabyle who are recognized as refugees in Belgium have the same rights as nationals, except the right to vote. They can request aid from the community, but recently Belgium has refused to accept newly arriving refugees. African refugees stand at the bottom of the economic scale and are subject to racial prejudice. The Kabyle, however, have influenced Belgian culture by introducing attractive ear and body piercing.
Preserving the family is important to the Kabyle. Even when a family member is forced 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 ancestry is traced through the males. According to tradition, a local assembly composed of the heads of all families governs the villages.
Traditional dress for Kabyle 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 almost completely Muslim, 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 Belgium do. Although a number of them have responded to recent Christian programs produced in France, there are still many who remain unreached.
The New Testament 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 Belgian Christians for the Kabyle who live among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Kabyle.
* Pray that the Jesus film will effectively reveal the person of Jesus to the Kabyle.
* 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 vigorous Kabyle church for the glory of His name!