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:
The intern kids arrive for afternoon Bible story & play time at our home each weekday. Slowly more neighborhood kids (of our new or secret believers) have begun to join the intern kids in listening to the Chronological Gospel story from creation to Christ. Please pray the Lord would keep sending them to hear the beautiful story of the Gospel and that they would have a firm foundation established in the truth for all their lives unto salvation. Pray for us as we prepare for the upcoming seminar on Chronological Bible Storying for the intern families as well.
Mama S is beginning to grow in her relationship with the Lord – gaining confidence of who she is in Christ and intimacy with God in her prayer life with Him. Her children have a growing heart for Jesus as well. Although neither she nor her children are allowed yet to worship openly with us, we have seen a softening in her husband toward the gospel. But please pray for the protection of their marriage! People, including her in-laws, have begun to spread vicious rumors about Mama S’s character in the village with the goal of inciting her husband to divorce her. On their porch one afternoon, God opened the door to talk frankly with Baba S about what we saw clearly as a satanic attack to divide and destroy their family. Praise God Baba S acknowledged that this was true and he would not give up on his family! We know satan still wants to devour their family. Please pray for the Lord’s protection and salvation over their whole family.