The Berber people of the Sahara desert
The name “Berber” is derived from the Latin word barbari, meaning “barbarians.” This term was used by the Romans to describe the “people of the Maghrib” – the region of North Africa comprising of present day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the Western portion of Libya. Nonetheless, the Berbers call themselves the “Imazighen,” which means “man of noble origin.”
Although the Maghrib has been, for the most part, “Arabized” by language and Islamic culture over the centuries, there are still groups of Berbers who have retained much of their original Berber traditions and characteristics.
WHAT ARE THEIR LIVES LIKE?
Since the Sahara Desert is a harsh environment, most of the Saharan tribes occupy a number of oases. The natural Berber economy rests on a fine balance between farming and breeding cattle. Every tribe, without exception, depends heavily on domestic animals for carrying heavy loads, milk and dairy products, meat, and hides or wool.
Berbers are often noted for their skills in various crafts. Domestic tasks, such as weaving and pottery, are the main work of women; whereas men specialize in woodworking, metalworking, and, more surprisingly, fine needlework. In regard to labour, the men do most of the farming, while the women’s responsibilities include milking and gathering.
WHAT ARE THEIR BELIEFS?
The majority of Berbers are Muslims. However, other Berber groups are only nominally Muslim.
WHAT ARE THEIR NEEDS?
The Saharan Berbers have very few Christian resources available to them. Because it is difficult to reach them geographically, they must be targeted by individual church planting efforts. The quality of life for the Berbers is quite poor. The need for community development projects may provide open doors through which missionaries may enter.
Algeria remains closed to traditional missionary efforts, and fundamental Muslim groups are very outspoken against Christianity. Much prayer is needed to break down the barriers that separate the Saharan Berbers from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Berber Christians who are scattered throughout North Africa.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Berbers.