The Banna and Hamer people, numbering around 73,000*, inhabit the semi-arid area south of Aari country in the South Omo Region of Ethiopia. Cattle are the most important possessions of the Banna and Hamer. The Banna also raise sorghum and maize. The Hamer and Banna share a common language with slight differences in dialect, but for social and cultural reasons they may possibly need separate translations of Scripture, different primers, etc. I hope that this can be done fairly easily using a computer program, either Adapt-It or CARLA. CARLA has already produced a rough draft of the New Testament, Genesis and Ruth in the Banna language from the Aari translation we had completed.
The Banna, like the Aari, benefit from immunization programs for children, which lower the rate of tetanus, measles and other diseases. A hospital in Jinka, the regional capital, meets a real felt need. The Banna generally do not practice female genital mutilation, but several of their neighbors do.
The capital of the region, Jinka, is located about 60 miles from Kenya and 80 miles from Sudan. Few Banna actually live in Jinka, but many visit the market there and some attend high school there. The Banna traditionally have cattle-raiding wars with the neighboring Mali, Bodi, and Mursi. As the Gospel spreads among these people groups, the wars diminish.
Like the Aari, the Banna may attribute sickness, infertility and death to the resentment of a deceased relative. The relative is appeased by the offering of a sacrifice. When a person dies, a sheep may be slaughtered and its intestines “read” to find the cause of death.
SIM built an elementary school for the Banna people at Alduba in the 1990s, and most of the students were children of believers. SIM also built a clinic in 1988, which helped open people’s hearts to the Gospel. It was handed over to the government in 2002 so that our nurse, Sharon Smith, could focus on her first love, evangelism and teaching, in cooperation with the Word of Life (SIM-related) Church. I would estimate the literacy rate among the Banna at less than 3%. My hope and prayer is that, as in South Korea, the church leaders will establish a church policy and literacy effort that results in 100% literacy. The Banna New Testament was published this year. Praise God for loving the Banna enough to want to speak to them in their heart language. Pray that they, in turn, will listen and respond to Him in faith and obedience.
*Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census, published by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Population Census Commission. Page 84.