The Nyamwezi of Tanzania

Population: 1.5 million

Location and Background:   The Nyamwezi tribe (“people of the moon”) is the second largest in Tanzania, living principally south of Lake Victoria in west-central Tanzania. About 30% of Nyamwezi live and work outside of their 35,000 miles of land, in Tanzania’s commercial and agricultural centers.

History:   It is believed the Nyamwezi and their related tribe the Sukuma arrived in their present location in the 16th c. Before Europeans arrived, they had an empire consisting of four clans, each  descended from one ancestor. Their ancient king, Mirambo, was known to be a brilliant military leader. They were traders, and by 1800 they were involved in trade of copper, wax, ivory, and slaves with Arabs at the coast. Elephant hunting was a prestigious occupation due to the wealth from ivory trade. They also acquired guns and were often involved in intra-tribal wars, and conflicts with the Arabs.

Culture:   The nuclear family lives together, and villages are not necessarily based on kinship relationships. Ideally every adult should be married. Various rituals are held for marriage and naming babies, and Westernization has had much influence on how the Nyamwezi function. Children go to the government schools. They are agriculturalists and pastoralists. Goats and sheep are used for sacrifices, and for their meat and skins. Their land is dry woodland, with scarce water, so it is not prime agricultural land. Men work the land, women care for the home.

Religion:   The Nyamwezi embrace African Traditional beliefs, Islam and Christianity. They have much respect for their ancestors (the living dead), to whom they offer sacrifices and rely on for their benevolence. Most claim to be Muslims and follow the five pillars of Islam, but in reality they live by their animistic worldview, believing in a creator God, the spirit world, and the importance of using witchdoctors and other diviners to communicate with the spirits. It is reported there are 80,000  Nyamwezi in the Moravian church. The AIC-T has planted a hundred churches in the area but the majority of attenders could be Sukuma, not Nyamwezi. Some say up to 15% of Nyamwezi could be Christian, most of those are Catholic or nominal Christian.

Learn more about the Nyamwezi at Joshua Project or about Tanzania at Operation World.

Latest Prayer Updates:

Embrace the Call

Pray for Tanzanians and the Tanzanian Church to embrace the call of the Great Commission to reach all peoples. Pray especially for God to raise up Tanzanians to reach out to the Nyamwezi and live among them. Pray for those who are sensing God’s calling to make this commitment, for enablement, coordination, and research into where to place new teams.

Jesus Is My Savior!

Praise God for the testimony of a mother who knows that Jesus is her Savior and the Savior of the world. When asked how she came by this news – since all her religious teaching has been from the mosque – she said, “I learned that He died on the cross for my sins from the movie you showed last year.” The movie was the Jesus Film, which we showed a couple of times last year, but with no known responses to it. Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in people’s lives through this media and that the Gospel truth would continue to be accessible in public forums such as Jesus Film presentations. Pray that more will come to know Jesus as their Savior.

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