Thursday, September 20, 2007

30 Days of Prayer - Dongxiang of China

Poorest, least literate and Muslim - the Dongxiang of China

Flag of China

Ramadan 2007 / 1428 : Day 08 for September 20 (We are posting these one day early to include all time zones.)

Population: estimate 514,000 (Year 2000 census)

Religion: Sunni Muslims

Fourth Largest

The Dongxiang people is the 4th largest of China’s 10 Muslim peoples. Literally, Dongxiang means “eastern villages” hinting that the Dongxiang came from further west. In fact it is thought that they originally came from the Sarta people of Central Asia. Between the 12th and 13th century, Genghis Khan invaded the Central Asia and captured the Muslim Sarta people - a term that once referred to Muslim traders in Central Asia. He brought them back to China and many intermarried with Mongol soldiers, some of the Sarta became slaves to the Mongols and some were sent to Gansu province as settlers. They fought for the Mongols in war and farmed their land in peace time. The largest concentrations of the Dongxiang still live in rugged and dry mountains of Gansu province, others are found in Qinghai, Ningxia and Xinjiang Provinces in north-western China south of Mongolia and north-east of Tibet.

The Struggles

Over the generations they also mixed with Han, Mongolian, Hui and Tibetan peoples. Due to their seclusion in the remote area of the Northwest China for several centuries, the Dongxiang people formed their own unwritten language which is related to the Mongol language. Even if they do not have a system of writing they do have rich oral traditions including legends, stories, folk songs, riddles and proverbs. Many of them also know spoken Mandarin. However, government statistics show that the Dongxiang are among the poorest and least literate of China’s 56 ethnic minorities. Many of them have only had slightly over one year of schooling. Most Dongxiang children find it difficult to learn Chinese. Some international aide agencies have been spurred to act in collaboration with the Chinese government to begin bringing a solution to this problem. A Dongxiang - Chinese dictionary was recently produced which is proving to be a great help.

Three Treasures

The Dongxiang mainly engage in agriculture. Livestock rearing, especially of sheep, plays an important role in their economic life. Their major products include potatoes, wheat, maize, hemp, rapeseed and other industrial crops. The Dongxiang’s “three treasures”, apricots, melons and other fruits, enjoy good reputation throughout China. There are possibly 200 Christians among the Dongxiang, however most of them are not organised in house groups or churches.

Prayer Requests:

* Ask God to send Chinese Christians to live and announce the Gospel among the Dongxiang people. May there be opportunities to help them with medical, educational, social and agricultural projects.

* May God open the hearts of the Dongxiang in order that they could enter His kingdom.

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