FERTILE SOIL


SAHO OF ERITREA

The Saho homeland stretches south from the Red Sea in Eritrea into Ethiopia. Its western border is flanked by the Tigre and Tigrinya people groups and its eastern border by the Afar. I was privileged to personally interact with the Saho in the city of Foro near the Red Sea, as well as Adi Keyh and Sen’afe near the Ethiopian border.

Foro is a 30-minute drive from Massawa on the road to Tio. The road is good, and Saho villages have sprung up along it to have access to schools and clinics. The Saho comprise more than 50 percent of Foro’s inhabitants.

The Saho are farmers. Foro is located in the middle of a valley at a former reservoir built by the Italians during their colonial rule. Irrigation provides Saho farmers with beautiful fields of maize that extend toward the mountains as far as the eye can see. Looking north toward the Red Sea, a person cannot help but marvel at the hundreds of acres of maize.

A village of 250 homes is on the eastern outskirts of Foro. The houses are well-built and the village is clean. The residents’ civic pride is evident. This village seems ideal for language learning, even for those living in Foro, a ten-minute walk away.

I visited Adi Keyh on Wednesday, a full-blown market day. A wood market is operated primarily by Saho. Camels were lying down with two racks of wood beside them.

Next to the wood market is a row of shops. Many of them are operated by Saho merchants. An outgoing, aggressive businessman sold me some popcorn and a prayer hat. Another shop owner, who specializes in selling honey, spoke excellent English and seemed comfortable with a stranger. It appears these two men are open to a gospel witness.

Saho make up about 25 percent of Adi Keyh’s population. However, many small Saho villages are located east and south toward Sen’afe. Sen’afe is about 45 percent Saho, but the number grows to 60 percent when surrounding villages are included. Five mosques are in Sen’afe, and most Muslims are Saho. A large valley stretches to the northwest, all the way to Tsorona, and approximately nine out of 10 farmers are Saho.

Observations

  1. The Saho community is fertile soil for sowing the seed of the gospel.
  2. By contextualizing his message, a Christian worker could live among the Saho and provide them with an adequate witness of the gospel.

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