Map of Afar Triangle














The Afar live in a large lowland triangle within Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Republic of Djibouti. This region is one of the hottest, most barren and unproductive areas of the world. Temperatures of 50ºC are not uncommon.


There are up to two million Afars spread out over these three countries. Although some Afars have settled in villages and towns, many continue to lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle, travelling around the desert with their camels, goats and sheep. Their survival in this arid area is thanks to their amazing mobility. The round huts, made of mats, are easily dismantled, loaded onto camels and taken to fresh pastures.


Trading from camel caravans is also a means of income. In large villages along the Red Sea coast some Afars make a living by fishing and trading. In spite of the Afars turning to Islam a long time ago, their thinking, as well as their way of life, is still influenced by pre-Islamic animism.


As in most Muslim communities, the men take the leading role in public, although the women have much power within the family and are very involved in the choice of marriage partners. Intermarriage of cousins is a common practice. Traditionally the killing of an enemy was considered a sign of manhood, proving that the young man was fit for marriage. This practice has now lapsed.


Medical work began among the Afars in 1956 on the coast of the Red Sea, at the edge of the desert. Later, more stations were opened at the south-western end of the Danakil depression.


For about twenty years a rural development work took place, and rural clinics were held. Recently work has been confined to urban areas. There is a need to expand this work to more rural areas again.


The visible results of over 40 years of evangelism are not impressive. However, if we take the difficulty of the task into account they are nevertheless encouraging: an increasing number of Afars are turning to Christ.


The Afar language has been put into writing; the New Testament and Pentateuch have been printed, and the Jesus film is available in the Afar language. Radio broadcasts and tapes containing Biblical messages and songs have been produced.


Although the Lord has not yet raised up a visible Christian church among the Afars, it is encouraging that there are far more people seeking to reach Afars today than there were even ten years ago.