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:

Ready To Answer

Pray for Christians living among the Nyamwezi that they will have the right attitude, the right answer, and not be surprised by the nature of questions from those seeking answers about Christianity. Praise God for hearts that are wanting to draw near to the Truth and an openness to hear about His Word. Pray that those seeking would believe. Pray that those sharing the Gospel will be adequately prepared with knowledge and understanding about our hope in Christ. May we “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you for a reason regarding the hope that is in you, yet answer with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15

Treasure the Word

Praise God for two new brothers in Christ, who have come to faith out of Islam this week! One is an older man who has been examining the Scriptures for over a year. Pray that in his new found faith he would have zeal to share his decision with others. Pray that he and his whole household would follow Jesus, and that the Word of God would nourish and encourage them. The other new believer is a young man, whose friend has been witnessing to him for many years. He told his friend this week, “I want to receive Christ as my Savior”. His father and brother have also come out of Islam. Pray these three would have influence on the mother, who has yet to receive Jesus. Pray this young man would be as Job, treasuring “the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” (Job 23:12).

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