Introduction / History
The name "Zaghawa" comes from the nearby Arab peoples. Zaghawas speak the Zaghawa language, which is an eastern Saharan language. In their past, they were noted merchants and traders with camels and horses, controlling some of the sub-Saharan caravan trade routes.
Where are they located?
The Zaghawa people live in Libya, Chad and Sudan.
What are their lives like?
Today, they lead a sedentary lifestyle, growing staples such as millet and sorghum, and other foods such as sesame, melons, pumpkins, peanuts and okra. The breed of sheep that they herd is called "Zaghawa" by the Arabs. They are semi-nomadic and obtain much of their livelihood through herding cattle, camels and sheep, and harvesting wild grains.
The Zaghawa society is based on castes. The upper caste has historically been of nobles and warriors, below are traders and merchants, below whom have been the artisan castes. These castes have been inherited occupations, including iron work, hunters, pottery, leatherwork and musicians such as drummers. The artisan work has traditionally been viewed within the Zaghawa society as dirty and of inferior status. They are known as people from different pagan and Jewish roots who slowly assimilated into the Islamic society. The lowest caste is slaves.
A number of serious diseases afflict the population, including malaria, tuberculosis, and cholera. Health care facilities are generally located in or near major cities, and the majority of people have no access to Western medicine.
Zaghawa people have been deeply involved in wars in Chad, Libya and Sudan, through strategic alliances with other ethnic groups. Though they have much political power in Chad and Sudan, they have very little in Libya.
What are their beliefs?
As a result of Tijani Muslim missionaries from West Africa who were traveling through their area to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Zaghawa leadership converted to Islam. In the 1940s, the Zaghawa began to turn to Islam from traditional animistic religion. They have retained some of their pre-Islamic rites such as karama – a ritual sacrifice of animals to ward off evil spirits. Even in areas of widespread Muslim conversion, belief in witchcraft and trial by ordeal persist. Funerals are very important, and are as elaborate as a family can afford, often going on for days or weeks.
What are their needs?
Zaghawa people need to see their need of Almighty God's provision for their sins as their only hope of eternal life.
They need access to modern medicine, through disciples who are qualified to treat them, and educate them and tell them better ways of living and worshiping.
There are no resources known to be in the Zaghawa language.
* Pray that work will begin on Scriptures and other resources so the Zaghawa people can read God's truth in their heart language.
* Pray that these people will begin to see themselves as precious in God's sight, and as individuals responsible to Him and loved by Him.
* Pray for Zaghawa people to find Christian materials and disciple others in the ways of Jesus Christ.
Text source: Keith Carey