Ouargla in Algeria

Photo Source:  Dan Sloan - Flickr  Creative Commons 
Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Ouargla
Country: Algeria
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 24,000
World Population: 24,000
Primary Language: Tagargrent
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.05 %
Evangelicals: 0.02 %
Scripture: Unspecified
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Berber-Saharan
Affinity Bloc: Arab World
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Berber tribes stretch from the Siwa Oasis in Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. They probably once inhabited the entire North African territory, forcing the black population to move further southward through the desert. However, the exact origins of the Berbers and how they arrived in North Africa remains a mystery.
The name "Berber" is derived from the Latin word barbari, meaning "barbarians." This term was used by the Romans in the third century A.D. to describe the "people of the Maghrib." (The Maghrib refers to the regions of North Africa that were conquered by Muslims between 670 and 700 A.D. It included Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and the western portion of Libya. Although the Maghrib has been, for the most part, "Arabized" by language and Islamic culture over the centuries, there are still groups of Berbers, like the nine Saharan Berber tribes, who have retained much of their original Berber traditions and characteristics. The Ouargla are one of these Saharan Berber tribes.
Their various Berber languages belong to the Hamito-Semitic language family which includes five major groupings as well as many dialects. Although the Berber languages differ greatly from one another in sound, they only vary slightly in grammar and vocabulary. The Ouargla Berbers speak Tagargrent.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Since the Sahara Desert is a harsh environment, most of the Saharan tribes occupy several oases. While there are many similarities between the various Berber groups, their lifestyles and quality of life vary according to the region in which they live.
The Ouargla Berber economy rests on a fine balance between farming and raising cattle. Every tribe, without exception, depends heavily on domestic animals for carrying heavy loads, milk and dairy products, meat, and hides or wool. No Berber tribe depends solely on farming for survival. Hunting rarely adds to their food supply.
The Berbers are often noted for their skills in various crafts. Domestic tasks such as weaving and pottery are the main work of the women. The men specialize in woodworking, metalworking, and, more surprisingly, fine needlework. Regarding labor, the men do most of the farming, while the women are responsible for milking and gathering.
Berber societies can be broken down into three basic units: the community, the district, and the tribe. The community is a political collection of clans; the district is a cluster of communities; and the tribe is a group of districts that are characterized by a common territory, name, and culture. Government at the community level is notably democratic. All authority is vested in an assembly called the jemaa. The jemaa, composed of all adult males, usually meets weekly.
In nearly every Berber society, each district, and sometimes each community as well, is divided into two opposing factions called sofs. Membership into the sof is hereditary. Among tribes that no longer live in their original environments, the political units are allied with one another in identical divisions of higher levels known as lefs. Bonds of alliance are re-confirmed by traditional forms of hospitality as well as by huge annual feasts to which members invite one another. If warfare occurs, it is almost exclusively between districts of the opposite lef. However, since lefs are primarily defensive rather than offensive alliances, their primary purpose is to preserve peace in a region.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Most Berber groups, including the Ouargla, are nominally Muslim. Their observances of Islamic law are lax.
The concept of baraka, or holiness, is highly developed in North Africa. The Ouargla Berbers believe that many people are endowed with baraka, of which the holiest are the shurifa, or the direct descendants of Mohammed. Another class of holy people is known as the marabouts. They are believed to possess, even after death, the powers of protection and healing.
In view of the general acceptance of Islam, it is particularly interesting that almost all Berbers prefer monogamous marriages.

What Are Their Needs?

The Ouargla Berbers have few Christian resources available to them. Because it is difficult to reach them geographically, they must be the focus of individual church planting efforts.
The quality of life for the Ouargla Berbers is quite poor. The need for community development projects may provide open doors through which missionaries may enter.
Algeria remains closed to traditional missionary efforts, and fundamental Muslim groups are very outspoken against Christianity. Much prayer is needed to break down the barriers that separate the Ouargla Berbers from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to North Africa and share Christ with the Ouargla Berbers in Algeria.
Pray that God will raise up loving African Christians to reach out to their Berber neighbors.
Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Berber Christians who are scattered throughout North Africa.
Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Ouargla Berbers.
Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local fellowship of believers among the Ouargla Berbers of Algeria.

Text Source:   Joshua Project