The people of the Gumuz tribe live in western Ethiopia, close to the border with Sudan. Until just a few years ago, they were a mainly nomadic people, but in the late 19th century and well into the 20th century, many of the Gumuz people fell victim to Arab slave traders from Sudan.
There is also belief that the blood of a woman in childbirth brings a curse upon the family, so the women are forced to go out alone to an isolated spot, such as a river bank, or deep in the forest, and give birth without any help or support. And since many girls are forced into marriage at a very young age, their bodies are scarcely mature enough to give birth for the first time. As a result, they often suffer extremely long and difficult births, frequently with fatal complications. This and other such superstitions govern all areas of life, especially for the women, and are a cause of a great deal of suffering and fear.
It was not until a few years ago that the Gumuz first came in contact with Christianity, but now the Good News of Christ is touching more and more hearts. Many of the people have ceased to be nomadic and now live a more settled life, building their round huts as close as possible to the nearest church; more and more of them are seeking baptism.
For the past three years, the Sisters of the Congregation of Saint Joseph of the Apparition have been working among the people. The three Sisters of the congregation prepare the candidates for baptism and generally help the people to better understand and live by the Christian faith. They give special support to the women and girls, for example by ensuring that the girls can attend school. In general, the Gumuz have been slow to embrace education and schooling, and while the government has recently been trying to encourage school attendance in the area, its efforts have so far borne little fruit.
It is often very difficult to persuade the parents of the value of sending their daughters to school. The Sisters are doing valuable work in persuading them, since this is one of the best ways of improving the lives of the girls and women. One of the Sisters also runs a small kindergarten, which among other things helps to prepare the children for attending school when they are older.
The three Sisters live in extremely simple conditions in a mud hut, and they have asked our help to support their life and ministry. Although they ask very little for themselves, they still need to cover the cost of things like fuel, since their work means they have to travel to the many different widely scattered settlements.
We have promised them $15,000 to support their life and apostolate.
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