Introduction / History
The Anywaa, or Anuak, are a river people whose villages are scattered along the banks and rivers of South Sudan and western Ethiopia. The Anywaa of South Sudan live in a grassy region that is flat and virtually treeless. During the rainy season, this area becomes flooded, so that much of it becomes swampland with various channels of deep water running through it.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Anywaa speak a Nilotic language known as Anuak. Unlike other Nilotic people in the region whose economy is centered on raising cattle, the Anywaa are mainly farmers. They are believed to have a common origin with their northern neighbors, the Shilluk. Also, they share a similar language with their neighbors to the south, the Acholi.
About 150 years ago, the Anywaa occupied a large territory stretching north into South Sudan. After numerous invasions, however, they were forced further south into their present location along the Baro and Pibor Rivers.
The Anywaa grow most of their own food. When the soil of a village becomes depleted, they move to a nearby fertile site to farm new ground. There is no cooperation or teamwork between villages in cultivating the land. Consequently, each village remains self-sufficient and isolated from other Anuak villages.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Anywaa are divided into clans. A strong sense of unity exists among clan members since most live in the same village. Intermarriage between clans is common.
Anywaa villages are thinly populated. These small, independent villages may be strung out up to twenty miles apart, oftentimes with swamps and rivers between them. Some villages are surrounded by dense reeds and are almost impossible to reach and quite difficult to attack. The sparse distribution of villages, along with the little cooperation that exists between them, makes each village a self-governing political and legal unit. This highly decentralized political system leaves each Anuak village with a strong sense of separate identity.
Every Anywaa settlement has a headman who is in charge of village ceremonies and possesses the village drums and ancient Anywaa relics. He is given allegiance and respect by the villagers who farm his land and bring him gifts of meat and fish. If the headman loses the villagers' support by being a weak leader, he will be expelled from the village, taking nothing with him but his wives.
When an Anywaa dies, he is buried either in a shaft in the center of his homestead, or underground, just a few feet from his hut. His face is covered with animal skins and the grave is enclosed by a fence. Each year when the millet harvest begins and beer is being brewed, a mortuary feast is held in memory of all who have died that year.
Many of the Anywaa are animists (believing that non-human objects have spirits) who follow their traditional ethnic religion. They believe in an all-powerful spirit named Juok who is regarded as the creator of all things. The Anywaa sacrifice animals to Juok for help when someone is sick or when someone wants revenge. The Anywaa also pray directly to Juok, instead of using mediator spirits or priests to intercede for them.
What Are Their Needs?
The Anywaa also practice divination and magic. They call upon the cijor (a type of sorcerer) to put curses on others. Such sorcerers are often used by elderly people who are unable to avenge themselves.
The full Bible was translated into the Anuak language in 2013, and many have come to Christ. They would greatly benefit from Christian radio broadcasts, and they also need prayer and further evangelistic outreach.
Ask the Lord to send forth laborers who will understand the needs of the Anywaa.
Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies presently working among the Anywaa.
Pray that God will give the Anywaa believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
Pray that qualified linguists will translate Christian materials into the Anuak language.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a vibrant Anywaa church for the glory of His name!
Scripture Prayers for the Anuak in Ethiopia.
Bethany World Prayer Center