FISH MARKET


SEGEJU OF TANZANIA

The Segeju are a people group living on the northeast coast of Tanzania, between the town of Tanga and the Kenya border. The 8,100 Segeju are virtually all Muslim. Currently there is no specific evangelistic outreach to them and no known believers among them. 

Our visit to a Segeju village unfolded in a beautiful way. The driver stopped at a village on the main road (which was dirt), and the tour guide inquired concerning the possibility of visiting an all-Segeju village. A young man gave directions. Proceeding a few more kilometers, we came to a junction and turned toward the Indian Ocean.

Only one mile from the village, we were amazed at the number of secondary school students, perhaps 100, who were returning home after a day at school. We discovered they were all from the Segeju village.

Driving to the center of the large village, we stopped in front of a house where a man was working on his bicycle. He was friendly and spoke English well. He offered to lead us to the chairman’s office near the fish market.

I presented myself as a tourist accompanied by two friends from Dar es Salaam. Learning that I had come to Tanzania specifically to meet them “face to face,” they were pleased and agreed to give us a tour of the village.

The first stop was the fish market located on the beach. The catch of the day had been brought in earlier, and a few customers were engaged in getting the best bargain possible.

Down at the water’s edge, a young man was filleting a large stingray. Several boats were anchored near the shore, and our guide was quick to point out that they had all been constructed by their own village craftsmen. It was easy to see that the fishing industry was the primary source of income.

I asked if the people spoke their own Segeju language. Our guide explained that along the coast only Swahili was spoken, but inland the people still communicated in their mother tongue.

The main historic site was an old stone wall that previously circled the village. It was built to protect from the attack of Maasai warriors. The Segeju forefathers were good fighters and held out against the constant, fierce attacks of the Maasai.

Next we visited with an old man about the early days. He was pleased to interact with us. I swapped hats with him and we had our picture taken together. We left 2,000 Tanzanian shillings ($2) with him, a habit we practiced along the coast as a sign of respect to the elderly.

An old mosque, no longer in use and totally deteriorated, was of interest to us. It was a piece of history that needed an explanation. Our guide said that it was built by Asian Indians who were Shiite Muslims. When they left years ago, no one used it, for the Segeju are Sunni Muslim. I found it interesting that the two groups would not worship together. 

Approaching the current Sunni mosque, we met an old man well over 90 years of age. My question about what makes him happy today caused him to stop and think. He responded, “Knowing that I will be cared for in my old age.” I then asked permission to take his picture in front of the mosque. He cooperated and even flashed a smile!

The last point of interest on our tour was the village “shipyard.” Men were in the process of constructing two large fishing boats. They knew what they were doing, but one still had to use his imagination to visualize a completed boat that didn’t leak.

On the walk back to our vehicle, our guide discussed with us the relationship between Muslims and Christians. He admitted that Christians were good people, for they believed in and used three of the four books that are most important to Muslims: Books of Moses, Psalms, and the Injil (Gospels). It was refreshing to interact with a moderate Muslim who could rationally accept a peaceful coexistence with Christians.

All in all, it was a great visit! The hand of God was evident in each exchange and contact. There was a definite sense that the Lord had prepared the way.

 

SEGEJU PROFILE

Introduction / History
The Segeju of Kenya are the remnants of a once numerous, warlike group of herdsmen. They live in the Kwale district of southern Kenya, mainly in the villages of Kidimu and Simoni. They are struggling to maintain their identity among the more dynamic people groups that surround them. They have closely integrated with the Digo and the Shirazi peoples, and have adapted to the agricultural setting. 

The Segeju were once so ferocious that they formed an alliance with Vasco da Gama's Portuguese settlers and helped to drive away the Zimba cannibals from Mombasa. Portuguese cleric, Father Monclarco, wrote favorably about them in his 1569 history. 

In the past, the Segeju owned large herds of cattle and lived on a diet made up almost entirely of cow's milk and blood. Like the larger Maasai group, they braided their hair with red ochre and wore animal skins. Today, they are far from warlike and are one of the least known tribes in Kenya.

What are their lives like?
In the seventeenth century, the Segeju were forced out of their territory into towns that became important centers of caravan trade. Many of them found employment as porters with the caravans. Over the last century, they have been pushed even farther south until many now reside in Tanzania. 

The main social grouping of the Segeju is the mlango, or clan. When a woman dies, her funeral expenses are divided among her husband, her husband's brothers, and her siblings. The siblings are not obligated to help the man pay for the funeral because he is their brother-in-law but because he is a member of the mlango. The husband's other wives may even help pay some of the expenses, since they are also members of the mlango. 

At Segeju weddings and funerals, it is common to hear the sound of the tall war-drums. The drums are carved from the trunks of mchani trees and are covered with tautly stretched ox hide that is held firm with wooden pegs at the open end. Palm-branch ribs serve as the drum sticks. 

Formerly, all ownership of land by the Segeju was communal and based on the mlango. Although marriage did not entitle a person to membership in the mlango, these ties appear to have given the person equal rights to the land. Interestingly, inheritance laws applied to coconut palms, but not to land, huts, and livestock. 

The Segeju farmers raise coconuts, cassava, rice, and a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Today, however, many of them have abandoned their land and the mlango system. This is primarily a result of the younger generation moving to Mombasa to receive an education. 

Today, most of the Segeju live in the typical coral-rag, lime-plastered pole, thatched houses that are found in the coastal villages. Very few Segeju raise livestock, except for an occasional chicken or goat. The lure of wage employment in industry, commerce, and tourism draws most of the educated young people to the big cities. They have assimilated well into the modern coastal cultures, leaving behind the out-dated traditions of the past. 

Like other coastal peoples, the Segeju have an aptitude for handicrafts. They dye palm leaves in various shades of purple and mauve, braid them into narrow strips, and sew them together to make attractive sleeping mats. They also make hand carved combs, coconut graters, and wooden stools.

What are their beliefs?
Like many other coastal tribes, the Segeju are virtually all Muslim of the Shafi'ite branch. There are only a handful of known Christians among the Segeju in Kenya. They believe that Jesus was a prophet, a teacher, and a good man, but not the Son of God. They pray to Allah five times a day while facing Mecca, their holy city.

What are their needs?
Christian resources in the Segeju language are very limited. Although Kenya is largely Christian, the Segeju remain virtually untouched with the Gospel.

Prayer Points
* Ask the Lord to give any missions agencies focusing on the Segeju creative ideas for reaching them with the Gospel. 
* Pray that God will protect the small number of Segeju believers and give them the boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to create an openness to Christianity within the hearts of the Segeju. 
* Pray that God will raise up an army of intercessors who will faithfully pray for the Segeju. 
* Ask God to give loving Kenyan Christians the burden to share the Good News with the Segeju. 
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Segeju.
* Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language.
* Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.
* Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group

Profile Source: joshuaproject.net

top