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.
Latest Prayer Updates:
We have seen a scattered number of Nyamwezi come to Christ and are excited that God is doing something amongst them. Pray that these believers will meet together and encourage one another. Pray many more will be saved!
Pray for my neighbour Mary Ann. I have ‘walked’ with her for the past 4 years following a late miscarriage (first baby had died at 7 months old) and then her desperate attempts to conceive again. She came to the Lord during this time along with her husband. They live in a large extended middle class muslim family house and family are very religious. The couple have been worshipping secretly and have not ‘come out’ in the open.
Amazingly she finally got pregnant last year and we prayed all the way through that she would keep the baby and she now has a son! They are still secret believers, reading their bibles and watching preachers on TV, but fearful of losing everything if they were to stand up. They need the power of the Spirit to set them free to live in integrity and transparency.
I am worried that now she has the miracle baby she may cool off and make decisions regarding his upbringing that compromise and jeopardise their fledgling faith.