“Are you a Turk?” – “Yes.”
“Are you a Kurd?” – “Yes, of course!”
“Are you a Zaza?” – “Yes, that’s for sure!”
The answer becomes more and more emphatic as we approach the core of the matter.
The truth is, the Zaza, or Dimili, are neither Turks nor Kurds. They live in the Eastern part of Turkey, in East-Anatolia, with their own language, history, and culture, but have never been recognized as a separate people group. They are a people with an oral culture, without a written language. Their stories are passed on orally from generation to generation, and because of this, they suffer considerable disadvantages inside the political state of Turkey.
Since its existence, the Turkish republic has tried to assimilate its different people groups. Research of any group’s own history and culture has been systematically banned, therefore the Zaza are an unknown people, even though they number approximately 3 to 5 million all over the world (of which 250,000 live in Germany). Possibly half of this people group has either emigrated into the Western world or moved to the larger cities of Turkey.
The Divided Zaza
The Zaza are not a homogenous group but are divided into two groups by religious orientation. The Northern Zaza are followers of the Alevi branch of Shiite Islam, which many Sunnis do not consider to be truly Islamic. The Southern Zaza, like their neighboring Kurds, belongs to the Sunni branch of Islam.
This religious division is mirrored also by their ethnic-cultural differences. Each group speaks a different dialect, with the differences in vocabulary and grammar (comparable to the difference between German and Dutch) being so significant that they have difficulty understanding each other. For the Northern Zaza, the Jesus film has already been made available; work is being done on the version for the Southern Zaza. This type of film ministry is especially important for oral cultures because many people do not know how to read and write in their own language.
Christianity amongst the Zaza
Some immigrant families have become believers in Jesus Christ while in other countries, but there are few reports of similar developments in Turkey, their country of origin. It is thought that there is just a hand-full of Zaza believers in Turkey. Hearing the words of Jesus in their own language will certainly have a tremendous impact, making translation work very important.
Prayer guide for the Zaza in Turkey:
* May God help this people to discover the identity that He has planned for them in Christ.
* Pray for culturally appropriate means of proclaiming the Gospel among this people.
* Pray for a wide acceptance of the translated Jesus film among the people from the northern group and the completion of the film translation for the southern group.
* Pray for the growth and strengthening of the few existing Christians and the establishment of new congregations.
* Pray for the existing work of Bible translation in the southern dialect.
- Prayers for Muslim Unbelievers | Video Christian Testimonies: MeetIstanbul.com is about Istanbul, Turkey –history, people, culture and spiritual state. Features videoed Christian testimonies, biblical prayers for Muslim unbelievers and more.