Swahili Bantu of East Africa Coast

Population: 720,000 (Joshua Project)

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.” Isaiah 42:9&10

Location: Along the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, Tanzania, & Mozambique

Religion: Folk Islam; Less than 1% of the Swahili are Christian.

History: The Swahili people came into existence after Bantu tribes along the coast of East Africa were invaded by and intermarried with Arab traders who settled permanently along the coast around the 11th century. The Swahili developed their own trade language which was a mixture of Bantu tribal languages and Arabic. The name Swahili even comes from the Arabic word meaning “coast.” The Swahili refer to themselves as the “Waswahili” – People of the coast. The Swahili seamlessly syncretized their traditional animistic beliefs when they converted to Islam, creating their own unique culture.

Culture: The Swahili-Bantu are predominately small scale fisherman, subsistent farmers, and tradesmen. Although the Swahili-Bantu identify primarily as the “Waswahili” (the people of the coast), a majority still know their traditional Bantu tribal ancestry. All Swahili speak Kiswahili as their primary language, but a few of the older generation know some of their traditional tribal language as well.

What remains of their ancestral Bantu ceremonies, rites and rituals has been syncretized with Islam and is performed in Swahili &/or Arabic. They are known throughout East Africa for their witchcraft and witchdoctors who have incorporated Arabic & the Koran into their rituals & incantations. They live in fear of their Islamic leaders and being cursed by one another.

Many spend their meager incomes to ward of the evil spirits and the curses they bring. Women and girls are quite vulnerable and are seen predominately as objects to be possessed or traded by men. Although there are Christian resources (including the Jesus Film) and multiple Bible translations available in the Swahili language, the Swahili are known for their strong resistance to churches, missionaries, and traditional ways of sharing the gospel. There are churches throughout the Swahili coast, especially in towns and cities, but their membership consists of a high majority of non-local Christians from reached tribes who have sojourned into the area for business or government work. These churches have been mostly ineffective in reaching the lost Swahili around them.

Latest Prayer Updates:

Prayer for Unity in Outreach

Lord, thank You for the unity You have given the local churches in Kilwa and the vision they have for reaching the unreached villages in the Kilwa district with the Gospel. Please, preserve their unity and keep them united by Your Spirit and protect them from any attacks of the enemy who would seek to cause disunity and conflict. Give them strength to continue in the work You have called them to and help each of Your children in Kilwa to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. Grant them Your wisdom and may they shine like bright lights in the midst of the darkness, being witnesses for Jesus with their lives and love. In Jesus name and for His glory, amen.

Love of Jesus for Them

Please pray for 7 ladies who recently watched the Mary Magdalena version of the Jesus film at my house. Several of them have seemed somewhat closed off to spiritual discussions in the past but were all willing to watch the film with me. One lady in particular seemed moved by it. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would keep reminding them of the Gospel message they heard and the love that Jesus has for each of them individually, especially as women. Pray that God would draw them to Jesus so that they would receive Him as their Savior!

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