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The Arusi-Galla of Ethiopia

[IMAGE] The Galla, also called the Oromo, are the largest, most widely dispersed people group in Ethiopia. Composed of approximately a dozen tribal clusters, the Galla prefer the term "Oromo" when speaking of themselves. To them, the term "Galla" has a derogatory connotation. Nearly all the Galla speak mutually intelligible dialects of a language called Gallinya. Although they retain similarities in their descent system, they differ considerably in religion, lifestyle, and political organization.

Migrating from the Horn of Africa, the Galla 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 1700's and 1800's, the Arusi-Galla 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 Arusi-Galla are herdsmen with a warrior tradition who determine 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 Arusi-Galla 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 Arusi-Galla 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.

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

Some Arusi-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 Arusi-Galla are Muslim; however, their traditional religion is still practiced by about 12% 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 Arusi-Galla 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 (Muslim holy month) is observed by most adults, celebration of other Muslim festivals is limited.

What are their needs?
Ethiopia was one of the first Christian nations, and today it is about 60% Christian. The Arusi-Galla have the New Testament available in their language, and four missions agencies are currently targeting them. The need for leadership and discipleship of new believers is critical if growth is to continue.

Prayer Points

  • Pray for the Lord of the harvest to call missionaries to work among the Arusi-Galla of Ethiopia.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Arusi-Galla.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
  • Pray that God will give the Arusi-Galla believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Arusi-Galla who will boldly declare the Gospel.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Arusi-Galla bound for many generations.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Arusi-Galla church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Arusi-Galla
  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Their language: Arusi (Oromo)
  • Population: (1990) 1,396,100
    (1995) 1,635,700
    (2000) 1,919,100
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 85%
    Ethnic religionist 12%
  • Christian: 3%
  • Church members: 49,070
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 4
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 752,400 (46%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 147,200 (9%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 605,200 (37%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 883,300 (54%)
  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Population: (1990) 47,422,700
    (1995) 55,053,100
    (2000) 63,785,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Amhara 34.8%
    Tulama 7.5%
    Wallega 5.6%
    Macha 5.4%
    Tigrai 5.3%
  • Major religions: Christian 58.5%
    Muslim 35%
    Ethnic religionist 6.4%
  • Number of denominations: 29

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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