The Pygmy tribes in Central Africa
In the 1800’s Western explorers stumbled upon a Pygmy tribe deep in the heart of the Congo. Fascinated by the small stature of the people, many theories about their origin began to arise. “Is this the missing link between apes and humans?” “Surely these savages cannot be human?”
Pygmies have historically been viewed as an inferior race. They have been captured and put on display, taken in as slaves by their neighbouring tribes and studied by curious scientists. Even today they are still being displaced by their own countries as deforestation threatens their home.
Pygmy is not simply one group of people, but a term used to describe many different tribes in Central Africa and around the world. So what makes a people group pygmy? Simply put, their height. Any ethnic group of people who on average do not grow taller than 1.5 meters are considered Pygmy.
Most Pygmy peoples live deep in the heart of rainforests and are believed to be short because of adaptation to the climate they live in. Life expectancy in some tribes is as low as 16-24 years of age. There are at least a dozen separate Pygmy groups across central Africa. It is estimated that there are between 250,000 and 600,000 Pygmies in the Congo rainforest. In the Republic of Congo pygmies are often taken as slaves.
The Buraka people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are one of the many groups of Pygmies. They have been reached with the Gospel, but almost all of the population has not turned from their indigenous beliefs. There is no scripture in their heart language, not even in the form of audio Bibles.
We can praise God that many groups of Pygmy people have now been well reached with the Gospel. However, there is much work left to do. Because Pygmies tend to live deep in rainforests they are very difficult to get to. Most only interact with people outside their tribe to trade for food and supplies. Bible translation is critical for the growth of the church among Pygmies. Most tribes have no scriptures in their own language.
- Pray for new mission efforts to reach the Pygmy, especially in Congo.
- Pray for Bible translation efforts to be made in Pygmy tribes.
- Pray for fair treatment of the Pygmy by their neighbours. The greatest threats to Pygmy survival in Africa comes from threatened loss of habitat due to extensive logging of the rainforests, and “spread of diseases such as AIDS from neighbouring tribes who regard them as subhuman.”