The land of the Beja people borders the Red Sea in north-eastern Sudan, centred on the city of Port Sudan along the coast. These 1.5 million people have a long history going back over 4,000 years. They are one of the largest unreached people groups in Sudan. They have been largely semi-nomadic and are involved in herding sheep and other livestock. Some Beja have given up their traditional occupations to work at the docks in Port Sudan. Others work as traveling merchants. Fresh water is largely lacking in the area, and many are supplied with water by tanker truck.
Sudan’s Beja discourage outsiders
The Beja have been nominally Muslim since the 13th century, but most do not understand the basic concepts of Islam. The majority practise traditional beliefs centred on magic and witchcraft, which they mingle with Islamic beliefs.
Beja culture discourages outsiders from making contact with them. Visitors to Beja villages will never be permitted to go directly to a Beja home; rather, they must stand in the village square and call the name of the person they want to encounter. If the person being summoned to the square does not hear the call himself someone will go to look for him. The one being called will place his knife in his belt, comb his hair and pick up his staff before going to the square to meet the person. No Beja will go to another man’s home without being invited, not even to the home of a close family member. The only exception would be because of sickness.
Beja women often leave the home before the visiting men enter. No Beja woman can ever be addressed directly by a man, even to ask about her husband. The women are able to go freely to the market, however, to meet other women. There is a noticeable lack of children in the streets, and most women are alone. Some Beja women often place a drug called “saut” in the mouth of their children to make them sleep before they go shopping. When they return home they remove the drug and wash out their children’s mouths. Soon the children are wide awake again!
Sudan’s Beja To-Bedawie Language
The Beja only marry within their tribe, since they earnestly desire to preserve their cultural identity and their language (To-Bedawie). They love to recite poetry, and often celebrate the ancient stories and traditions of their tribe in village gatherings. The Beja are largely illiterate, and only recently have there been any attempts to write down the To-Bedawie language. Only 25 per cent of Beja speak Arabic.
Prayer for Sudan:
* There are some Sudanese believers who would like to reach out to the Beja, but lack the material resources to do so. Pray for these believers to remain committed to reaching out to the Beja and to be provided with the resources to do so.
* It could be important for the To-Bedawie language to be written down and taught. Many educational possibilities could then become available for children and youth. Pray for translators and for the opening of opportunities.
* Pray for the few Beja who have become Christians to have courage and wisdom in sharing their faith. Pray that they may have favour with their people.