Who are the Sakalava?
The Sakalava live in the west and northwest of Madagascar. They are a minority ethnic group, making up about 6.2% of the population. Related to the Antakarana, they are semi-nomadic agriculturalists and fishermen, and also keep cattle as a sign of wealth and for sacrifices. Sakalava identity focuses on respecting, honouring and working for both the living and the dead Sakalava royalty. They have a caste system which includes the descendants of royalty, then nobles, commoners and slaves – everyone knows their position in society.
What do they believe?
They believe in a remote, Creator God, who was the first ancestor. He can be reached through ancestral spirits and human mediums. People seek spirit possession, often amid much drunkenness and sorcery and witchcraft are rampant. Fear is a constant companion: fear of punishment, of displeasing ancestors, and of death. Taboos are observed in almost everything to do with their daily life. Everything is geared towards pleasing the ancestors of the royalty.
What is being done to reach them?
A TIMO team served among the Sakalava from 2013-2015, during which time they saw several people come to Christ. Among these new Christians were ‘The Band’, a group of musicians who have been writing Bible songs in the Sakalava language. Rosina Ferdinand, the TIMO team leader, has continued to minister to the Sakalava, together with one family from the TIMO team. Four Sakalava couples, who are new believers, have recieved biblical training to equip them to evangelise their own people. This year, two more AIM families are planning to join this work.