The Yao people in Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique
The Yawo people found in Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania trace their history to the hills of northern Mozambique, though the majority live in Malawi. The Yawo befriended Swahili-Arabs in the early 1800s. They joined the Swahili-Arab traders as business partners, trading ivory and slaves for guns and cloth. Through journeys to the east coast of Africa and their relationship with the Swahili-Arabs, the Yawo were introduced to Islam.
Malawi is known for its warm climate, the friendliness of its people and its political peace. It is, however, one of the world’s poorest, most densely populated countries and its people suffer from regular periods of hunger, malaria and HIV-AIDS. The Yawo of Malawi are mainly subsistence farmers and fishermen. Malawi’s Yawo have a low literacy rate compared to that of other ethnic groups in the country.
WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE?
Most Yao combine Islam with traditional African religions, using traditional medicines and talismans for protection from sorcery and witchcraft, as well as for healing and obtaining good fortune. Islam has failed to fully penetrate the Yao worldview.
CHALLENGES & OUTREACH IDEAS
The Yawo are a resistant people group. They have insulated themselves from Christian witness by maintaining their unified language, cultural and religious differences. Although their Chewa neighbours have been Christians for many years, the Yawo have remained virtually unreached and have not responded to evangelism by the Chewa. Along with deep spiritual needs, the Yawo suffer from physical needs. HIV/AIDS has been a serious problem in Malawi, though in recent years increased education, awareness and aid have proved effective. Malaria and malnutrition are two other physical challenges the Yawo face.
Meeting physical needs in agriculture, church planting and building schools are some of the outreach ideas being used to reach the Yao.
- A full Bible in Ciyawo was published in late 2014. Two more translation efforts are ongoing. Pray for Scripture to be accepted by the Yawo Muslims.
- There are several international mission organisations working among the Yawo; pray for God’s blessing and effective methods of evangelism for those sharing God’s Story with the Yawo.