Mention of the Bedouin often conjures up romantic notions of great camel-herding tribes roaming the desert, living a simple but somehow noble life. The present reality for the majority of Bedouin in the Near East is quite different. Most are struggling to eke out a living, and are very much on the fringes of society – economically, politically and socially. They are often looked down upon and ignored by urban dwellers. Spiritually, the Bedouin have been largely forgotten and neglected.
In the past 70 years, the Bedouin have seen huge lifestyle changes (usually forced on them). Many are now settled in villages around the desert or in agricultural lands. They no longer have the freedom to wander and roam as they once did because of political boundaries and government restrictions. Most have given up their camels and now herd sheep and goats. Others have moved away from pastoralism altogether and work in agriculture, while others have branched out yet further to become truck drivers, mechanics, and the like. All the time, the Bedouin are seeking to adapt to and survive in the new environment that is changing all around them.
The Gospel for the Bedouins
There are over five million Bedouin in the Near East (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq), comprising a number of tribes, each with their own loyalties, characteristics and dialects. The Gospel has hardly reached the Bedouin in this region. One missionary tells about his Bedouin friend who saw the Jesus film and received prayer. “What a story, I keep thinking about the film.” Then he added, “You blessed me so much that I wish I had come a long time ago to your house, you prayed for me to find a job and the next day I was offered one.”
Graves among the Bedouins
If one travels through desert areas around Bedouin tents after being welcomed one would undoubtedly be served a meal. Later one would, from time to time, come across some unmarked graves – essentially a pile of stones. If someone in the tribe was able to read and write they might have scratched the name of the person and their tribe on the headstone. The Bedouin of the Near East live within a few hundred kilometres of where the Good News was first proclaimed. Yet, the Gospel has hardly touched the Bedouin. Most Bedouin graves are testimonies which signify that yet another Bedouin entered this world, lived, and then moved on to eternity without ever hearing anything of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Focus for the Bedouins
* Pray for God to reveal Himself to the Bedouin (Luke 2:8-20).
* Pray for the small number of missionaries who are seeking to reach out to both settled and nomadic Bedouin.
* Pray for more labourers, and for creative ways of being with and witnessing to the Bedouin of the region (Jeremiah 3:15).
* Pray for the production of Gospel materials in the appropriate dialects.
* Pray for God to establish viable, witnessing and growing churches among the Bedouin tribes.