Oromo, Arsi in Ethiopia

Oromo, Arsi
Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2024
International Mission Board-SBC - Erik Laursen   All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Oromo, Arsi
Country: Ethiopia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 6,944,000
World Population: 6,947,200
Primary Language: Oromo, Borana-Arsi-Guji
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 10.00 %
Evangelicals: 3.80 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Oromo
Affinity Bloc: Horn of Africa Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Oromo, are the largest, most widely dispersed people group in Ethiopia. The Oromo are composed of approximately a dozen tribal clusters. Nearly all the Oromo speak mutually intelligible dialects of the Oromo language. Although they retain similarities in their descent system, they differ considerably in religion, lifestyle, and political organization.

Migrating from the Horn of Africa, the Oromo arrived in Ethiopia four centuries ago. Together with the Amhara and the Tigrai, they dominated the government and military classes of the Ethiopian Empire. In the 1700s and 1800s, the Arusi became a prominent force in Abyssinian (Ethiopian) politics. During the nineteenth century, they converted to Islam. Today, they are more apt to speak Amhara and Tigrinya than Oromo, their native tongue.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Arsi are herdsmen with a warrior tradition which determines a man's status by the number of livestock he owns. Virility and male attributes are considered desirable, with bravery and war being stressed. Riding, spear throwing, and fighting are also emphasized. Although warfare against enemies is honored, peace within the group is demanded.

Most Arsi live in rural areas where they make a living mainly from raising animals along with some farming. The typical dwelling is a tukal, or a circular hut made of acacia branches covered with grass mats. The cone-shaped roof has an opening that allows smoke to escape. Their staple diet includes durra (a cereal grain), maize, beans, rice, milk, meat, and wild fruits. Coffee and tea are both popular beverages.

The Arsi family is headed by an authoritarian father who has the right to expect total obedience. Men usually have only one wife, and children are considered a necessity. The more children and grandchildren a man has, the greater his prestige.

Arsi boys are taught to use a spear and begin training at an early age to become warriors. Traditionally, men ready to marry were expected to present to their brides part of a man who they had killed. The killing of a man was customarily a part of becoming a full-fledged adult as well as part of certain festivals. Although this tradition survives, wild animals are now used instead of humans.

One basic value of the Arsi-Galla is tokuma, which is identification with the group. Cooperation is central to this system, especially in work arrangements. The Arsi-Galla have a reputation for being easygoing and sociable. They value hospitality and almsgiving, but more to relatives and friends than to strangers.

Some Arsi-Galla have moved to the towns, attracted by employment opportunities and modern schooling. Others have entered national security forces, the industrial labor force, or the fields of trade, transportation, and education.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The majority of the Arsi are Muslim; however, their traditional religion is still practiced by over part of the population. These ethnic religionists worship a supreme being named Waqa. Wadaja feasts are organized on various occasions, and livestock is sacrificed in Waqa's honor. Today, these feasts reflect a Muslim influence.

Many Arsi still believe that objects such as trees, springs, and rocks have spirits. It is also believed that spirits called jinn may take possession of people. While fasting during Ramadan is observed by most adults, celebration of other Muslim festivals is limited.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord of the harvest to call missionaries to work among this group.
Pray they will come to know of the one Sacrifice given on their behalf.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center