FBC Pleasant Grove
Sunday, December 21, 2014
a place to grow
Adopted People Group
Who are the Silt'e people?
The Silt'e people are a Muslim nation of people who live southwest of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are approximately 1,000,000 people who speak the Silt'e language of which 800,000 live in the Silt'e zone of the Southern Nations People state. The Silt'e zone encompasses an area equal to about six U.S. counties. The Silt'e people, who are 99.99% Muslim,are a gracious people who follow the Islamic rule for hospitality.
The language of the Silt'e belongs to the Semitic family and is related to Arabic, Hararghe and ancient languages from Yemen. The language, called Siltingnya, is unintelligible to the surrounding tribes of Gurage, Oromo and Hadiya.
Like many Ethiopians the majority of the Silt'e people are dependant upon agriculture, growing teff, barley, maize, wheat, sorghum, ensette trees, sugar cane, and chat. The majority of the farmers grow their crops on small one to two acre plots using primitive methods. Teff is a grain rich in iron and indigenous to Ethiopia. The tiny grain grown almost exclusively in Ethiopia is used for making the Ethiopian staple bread called injera. Ensette is common in the highlands southeast of Addis Ababa. The bulb of the plant is used to make kocho, another bread indigenous to Ethiopia. Chat is a mildly narcotic plant used primarily by Muslim people in the Horn of Africa.
In 2001 the Silt'e people voted to become independent of the Gurage administrative zone. Previously they had been part of the eleven Gurage houses (tribes). This independence should allow the Silt'e people the opportunity to promote their own identity and the needs of the people. Historically the Silt'e people have been identified with the Hadya and the Gurage tribes.
The Silt'e people originally came into the area around 1300-1400 CE settling in the Wulbarag area as Muslim traders. The history of the Silt'e language is somewhat of a mystery, but there are similarities to Haraghe, the language of the ancient Muslim city of Harare in eastern Ethiopia. Possibly the language originated from a now extinct language on the Arabian Peninsula.
The first settlers came to the Wulbarag area as traders and possibly as an outpost of Muslim sultanate. A second and better-known wave of settlers came during the time of Mohammed Gragn around 1542. Mohammed Gragn began a jihad against the people of Ethiopia underwritten by the Turks who provided guns and promised riches. Gragn recruited soldiers from Somalia and Harare and then raided the Orthodox areas of destroying and incredible wealth of historical artifacts and taking immeasurable gold. On Gragn's final campaign the Turks recruited soldiers from the Yemen, Somalia and Harare but Gragn was killed in the battle. Many of his soldiers returned to the Silt'e area.
Religion - The religion of the Silt'e people is Sunni Islam with few exceptions. The Silt'e people have a saying, “Silt'e is Islam and Islam is Silt'e.” A large number of the Silt'e population follow the teachings of Sheik Nur Hussein, who is an Ethiopian Muslim saint from the 13th century. His base was in the Bali region near the Sof Omar caves and the site is still revered for religious Hajj. Many of the Silt'e people pray to Allah through Sheik Nur Hussein for blessings on their crops and family. The Silt'e holidays are common to most Muslims but the most celebrated holidays are listed here:
Mawlid al-Nabi birth of Mohammed Ramadan
Laylit al-Qadr night of power during Ramadan
Eid al-Fitr feast for breaking of the Ramadan fast
The most important holiday for the Silt'e people is Eid al-Adha, when everyone travels to their home place to visit family bringing gifts to their parents. After a gift is given the parents will bless their offspring for another year. In the mountains this celebration can last for as long as a month during which time many sheep, goats and cattle are slaughtered for feasting.
Economic conditions – The Silt'e people are extremely poor earning on average around $108 per year, well below the national average for Ethiopia which is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. It is estimated that over 80% of Ethiopian children suffer from malnutrition at some point in their lives. One study in the Silt'e zone discovered that the Silt'e children will suffer from malnutrition for three months of each year prior to harvest.
HIV/AIDS has also become a significant problem in the Silt'e zone. According to UNICEF the virus infects approximately 10% of Ethiopians. Most deaths are caused by malaria or tuberculosis, but in AIDS weakened people. The disease carries a tremendous stigma that will continue to affect the family long after someone dies. In the Silt'e zone there is only one HIV testing site for 800,000 people who live in the zone. Orphans and widows are becoming an increasing strain on the indigenous welfare system that is already stretched past capacity.
Interesting Note - Some Silt'e claim that Bilal, the freed slave and close friend of the prophet Mohammed, was a native of the Silt'e area. Bilal would not have been Silt'e since he predates the arrival of the Silt'e people.
News in Ethiopia http://allafrica.com/ethiopia/
AIDS in Ethiopia http://www.etharc.org/
Ethiopia Embassy in Washington DC
Weather in Addis Ababa