The Saharwi people in Western Sahara
The men rose from the mats on the floor. They had just finished their supper of skewered fish. As they took their animated discussion about the weather, trade, and politics to the adjacent room, the women cleared the short, round table. The children scuttled in and sat cross-legged on the mats their fathers recently vacated. After serving their children, the women sat down last, as was the custom of the Sahrawi people.
The Sahrawi people, a nomadic people group, have lived in Western Sahara since time immemorial. Most Sahrawi’s are either herdsmen or traders. Western Sahara came under the Spanish rule in 1884. It became a Spanish province in 1934. Their nomadic lifestyle was curtailed with the Spanish occupation. This period was beset with revolts against the occupying power. When the Spanish relinquished power in 1975, the Moroccan government annexed Western Sahara as its territory. Since then, the Sahrawi people continue to be the last occupied people in the world.
While some pre-Islamic beliefs still exist among the Saharawi, they like to think of themselves as pure Muslims. Like most North African groups, there are some beliefs that certain dead Muslim teachers have a power that can be accessed for healing through pilgrimage to their grave sites. Some researchers have mentioned that the Saharawi also worship a god known as Sidi Erbbi, who is paternal and full of life.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
The Saharawi live in an area of war and political turmoil. As a result, families have been divided, and many have been displaced in refugee camps. Their desire for political recognition and independence is strong. Fervent intercession must be made if the Saharawi are to find lasting peace in a saving relationship with Christ.
- Pray for more Sahrawi people to read about the love of God in the Christian literature available in their language.
- Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Sahrawi people towards the Gospel message.