Introduction / History
Today, most of the world's Tajiks live in Tajikistan, Central Asia. However, many formerly lived in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (from 1979 to 1988), fighting continued between Afghan groups seeking power. It was during this period of chaos and violence that up to five million Afghans fled to Pakistan; more than one million of whom were Tajiks.
The Afghani Tajiks are an Indo-Iranian people who have light skin and black hair. However, intermarriage has greatly influenced their features. The Tajiks are closely related to the Persians of Iran, and speak a dialect of Farsi, the Persian language.
While many Tajik refugees settled in Pakistan, others remained in refugee camps, waiting for the situation in Afghanistan to stabilize enough for them to return home. All of those now living in Pakistan reside in a long, narrow strip on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Afghani Tajiks are farmers or herdsmen. The farmers raise cotton, barley, wheat, and various grains. They live in small villages that consist of flat roofed mud or stone houses. Some of the villagers follow a semi-nomadic way of life. In the winter they remain in the villages, whereas in the summer they take their herds to higher altitudes. A few Tajiks live in the major cities and work as merchants or highly skilled craftsmen. Since fleeing to Pakistan, some Afghani Tajiks have been forced to work at whatever odd jobs they can find.
Tajik men typically wear turbans over brightly embroidered caps. Instead of covering their faces with veils, like most Muslim women, Tajik women cover their heads with shawls. The women who live in cities usually wear sack-like dresses that cover them from head to toe.
The Tajiks take great pride in their ethnic heritage. Their Indo-Iranian physical features and their language are very different from other ethnic groups in Central Asia. Preserving tradition is very important to Tajiks, and they use folklore to pass their customs to the next generation.
Tajik families are generally quite large. It is not uncommon for families to have seven or eight children. Marriages are still arranged by the parents, and wedding ceremonies follow the traditional Tajik customs.
What are their beliefs?
The Afghani Tajiks are overwhelmingly Muslim. Most are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafite sect, but there also are a few Ismaili Shi'ites among them. The Sunni Muslims are much more orthodox in their beliefs than the Shi'ites, who believe in human free will.
Islam completely permeates the lives of the Tajik, governing what they eat, how they act, and how the women dress. They also observe Islamic rituals that are related to birth, puberty, marriage, and death. They faithfully repeat memorized prayers five times each day, facing Mecca, Islam's holy city.
In addition to their Islamic beliefs, many of the Tajik practice spiritism (practices that make use of charms and amulets).
What are their needs?
The majority of Pakistan's Afghani Tajiks have staggering physical needs. They suffer with unsanitary living conditions and poor water. The literacy rate among them is quite low.
Most of the Tajiks wish to return to their homeland, but fighting still rages across much of Afghanistan. Their land is overflowing with millions of land mines, and it is very likely that many of the Afghani Tajik villages have been destroyed.
The Islamic religion is very difficult to influence. Converts to Christianity are often banished from their families. As a result, Christians only make up a very slight percentage of the Afghani Tajik population.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Pakistan to share the Gospel with Afghani Tajiks.
Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Afghani Tajiks.
Pray that God will give the Afghani Tajik believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Afghani Tajik church for the glory of His name!