The Laarim of South Sudan
Location and Background: Also known as the Boya or Narim, the Laarim are a Nilotic people living in the Boya Hills. It’s a rugged and hilly terrain with rich savanna, high grasslands and scrub bushes. They live in small settlements, with the main town being Kimatong.
History: The Laarim are close relatives of the Didinga, Murle and Tenet. They believe they came from Ethiopia in the 18th c as part of a group that separated from others because of a dispute over gazelle soup. Cattle-rustling continues to fuel hostilities with the Toposa, and efforts for peace and reconciliation have borne no fruit, though they continue to look for ways to end the long-standing conflict.
Culture: Social and cultural life is centered around cattle, with livestock being their only known natural resource. They breed them, eat their meat, use them as dowry to get a bride, drink their blood and milk, and sleep on their hides. Raiding and stealing of cattle is a question of honor and valor. The do also grow some food, and also hunt and fish. Hereditary chiefs are highly respected. The Laarim share the same rainmaker as the Didinga and perform rain-making rituals in common. The culture is patrilineal, with strong ties of community solidarity. Initiation rituals are followed for passing into adulthood, and dowries are paid for brides.
Religion: The Laarim practice Africa Traditional Religion with some Catholic influence. They are highly aware of spiritual forces, and believe in a supreme being who controls all of life, including the health of their cattle. They believe spirits of their departed ones roam the earth and they can communicate with them through prayers and offerings which they perform collectively in designated ritual places.
Latest Prayer Updates:
Praise God with us for seekers inquiring about unclear translations. It opens doors for great conversations. In the passage on prayer, the word for “knock” was used. Although a proper word, real entrance doors in Laarim are few and far between. So when a listener heard the phrase “knock and it shall be opened”, he immediately thought of the more frequent use of “knock” as “beating (people)”. He recognized this idea did not fit with the other parts of the story!
The elders of one community stated that they now know the stories of the Bible. A missionary wanting to help them understand it is not enough to just know the stories, gently asked why the big tree under which we were meeting was not cut down and used for firewood. The community group said it was a good tree and provided for them shade and fruit. Other trees which are not helpful or bearing fruit are cut for firewood, he was told. It was a natural lead in to share that God sees us as trees. He wants trees that are bearing fruit—the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Other trees will be cut down and thrown in the fire!