and stoic, the Fulani are the largest nomadic people group in the
world. For centuries they wandered many paths across the vast
Today about 30 million of these people stretch across West Africa
Ė from Senegal to the Sudan, an area larger than the continental
About 200 years ago, some of these cattle herders followed a path
to the mountainous region of central Guinea known as the Fouta Jalon.
| Settling here, they built
grass-roofed huts and their cattle grazed nearby. Ample rainfall,
cool-mountain air, and fertile soil supported the cultivation of
fruits, vegetables and grains.
This area is now home to nearly three million Fulani who have
their own language, Pulaar. They proudly call themselves the Fulbhe.
| Today, fewer families are
herding livestock though many still choose the path of village life.
Here they work closely as a family community growing rice, peanuts,
sweet potatoes, and vegetables.
For others, the potential for
employment and economic gain has attracted them to the city where
they work as merchants, skilled laborers and for the government.
However, ties to extended family in the village remain extremely
strong, compelling them to return down the familiar path home for
sicknesses, weddings and deaths.
Regardless of where they settle, family is the center of their
focus with their lives woven together.
| The majority of people live
hand-to-mouth ... a life of insecurity that lacks the opportunity to
change. Yet these proud and hearty people survive, refusing to give
The Fulbe are proud not only of their history, their land, and
their language ... they are also proud to have Fulbe character. A
deeply-rooted and highly-valued character trait is to be cunning.
| From early in life, they
develop clever but often-devious plans to achieve their objectives
of wealth, position and respect. Those who obtain their goals are
held in high esteem regardless of the tactics used. This trait must
be carefully managed to achieve the most honor. They go to great
lengths to avoid shame. It would be unthinkable for one with money
in-hand not to help his extended family. However, this comes in
direct conflict with gaining individual wealth.
In order to hold
onto their wealth, many have chosen to invest their cash into
buildings. These partially completed structures appear throughout
the area Ė from the large cities to small villages. Some are under
construction. Some are very old. These roofless buildings may never
be occupied, but they are a possession that proudly indicates
wealth, just as cattle once did for the Fulbe
part of "being Fulbe" is a deep and compelling desire to be accepted
into paradise when they die. To do this, the Fulbe have chosen the
path of Islam. The Fulbe are very proud of their religion and the
fact that they are the ones who brought Islam to West Africa. The
Fulbe see themselves are the guardians of Islam. Islamís dominance
is ever present throughout the Fouta Jalon with over 99% of the
Fulbhe following Islam. Mosques can be seen in every direction and
variety from the large and ornate to the small and simple. Special
arrangements of rocks and gravel cover the landscape, convenient to
anyone passing by at prayer time.
| The Fulbe spend their lives
working to gain enough favor or blessing to be acceptable to God.
They believe no human can have a personal relationship with God, but
that by following the laws of their holy book, the Koran, then maybe
... just maybe, their good favor will outweigh their bad, and they
will be allowed entrance to paradise. Islam, however, is also mixed
with the animistic practices of manipulating the spirit world and
Fulbe traditions that have been handed down for generations.
Following in these familiar footsteps, they begin trying to gain
favor with God early in life. When a baby is one week old, the
father sacrifices a goat or sheep to bring blessing to his childís
life. The babyís head is shaved as part of the ritual. At a young
age, children begin to learn Koranic teachings in the Arabic
language. This is thought to be Godís language and thus pleasing
Him. The colored robe signifies a circumcision has taken place,
which is the rite of passage into Islam
|In adulthood, they must get even
more serious about their religion in order to ensure they have
enough of their life remaining to please God. Therefore, along with
praying five times daily, the Fulbe will fast from sunup to sundown
for one month each year. Religious festivals and events punctuate
their lives. Fridays are days to receive extra blessing. This is
accomplished by attending a mosque for prayer and giving money to
the poor. The red and white scarves proudly displayed by some are
indicative of a pilgrimage to Mecca which each Muslim wants to take
|Even in death, they make one
last attempt at gaining Godís approval. They feel many people must
come to their funeral to show God how respected they were.
Therefore, they faithfully attend the funerals of others to ensure
many will attend theirs. They dress in their finest garments and
give money to the family, which is carefully recorded and announced
to all. Closest family members watch and pray over the body until
the appointed time when only the men are allowed to accompany the
body to the mosque for prayer and burial.
| Even though the Fulbeís life
is devoted to gaining favor with God, their religious rituals are
like their washing before prayer, only affecting them outwardly with
little impact on their hearts. Most people have compartmentalized
their lives to the point that, besides prayer times, little thought
of God or religion even occurs. The Fulbe believe in one God yet,
they see Him as the source of both good and evil making it hard to
trust Him. Their lives are full of uncertainty and questions because
this "lack of trust" permeates all their relationships.
are unaware that the path they have chosen will not lead them to
different mission agencies are working among the Fulbe.
Unfortunately, the progress has been slow in leading them to a
personal relationship with God. In the eyes of the Fulbhe, rejecting
Islam is rejecting family, culture, and even, "being Fulbe." Only a
few have been willing to pay the huge cost of losing family,
livelihood and possibly life.
These followers know that Jesus is a treasure worth any cost.
They want to spread the Good News of Jesus to people in the
villages, throughout the Fouta Jalon of Guinea, and across the
sub-Sahara of Africa.
Listen to a Fulbe brother who is paying the cost to follow Jesus:
"I ask that you not forget my people. We followers are few. Pray
for us as you think of us in the morning, ... the afternoon, ... and
at night. Specifically pray we will have the strength to spread the
Good News of Jesus.
Much work needs to be done to give the Fulbhe an opportunity to
choose the path that leads to eternal, abundant life.
Would you be willing to take the unfamiliar path of assisting
missionaries walking among the Fulbe?
Pray for those who will walk with the Fulbe and show
them the path of peace.
Pray that Fulbe followers will not stumble.
Pray for the Fulbe in the morning, at noon and evening.