The Maninka Muslims are a sub-group of the large people group commonly referred to as the Manding. Their unity and pride stems from their common cultural origin from the once-great Malian Empire.
The Maninka are spread across the continent of Africa in nine countries, including Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
Topography and Climate
Situated on the "bulge" of West Africa, Guinea is surrounded by Guinea-Bissau, Sénégal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Atlantic Ocean. Twenty-two West African rivers originate in Guinea.
The Maninka of Guinea live in the subtropical climate area of Africa. They experience extreme heat with a dry, dusty season, then torrential rains.
The Maninka have a system of occupational castes, the most important of which are the musicians and blacksmiths, who are set apart in society and revered. When a singer dies, it's as if a library has been burned because he carries with him the oral tradition of the people. Blacksmiths are believed to have special magical powers.
Village organization rests on the lineage structure. The eldest male of the oldest founding lineage is usually at the pinnacle of leadership. The national government has imposed its own leadership upon the people, which has led to frequent conflict.
Outreach among the Maninka began in 1919 when Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) began a work in Baro, Guinea. In 1967, virtually all expatriate missionaries were expelled from Guinea. In 1985 Guinea's leader, Sekou Touré, died, and the new government allowed missionaries to return to Guinea.
SIM—the fifth mission allowed to enter Guinea after the change in policy—began working with the Maninka in 1986. SIM currently works in Kankan, the heartland of the Maninka. There are now approximately 30 Maninka believers and one pastor.
The Maninka, the Fulani, and the Susu—all solidly Muslim—are the largest unreached people groups in Guinea. The Maninka are generally open to discuss spiritual matters and are fascinated by them. However, the older generation is very resistant to change, because violation of group norms brings shame to their clan. The younger people are somewhat disillusioned by Islam as they become increasingly exposed to a broader worldview.
In 1966, the translation of the New Testament into Arabic was completed. Since then translators—working with the Maninka people—have completed portions of the New Testament in Maninka, including Luke and Acts. Only portions of the Old Testament have been completed. With the literacy rate being only 15%, there's an enormous need to develop more creative ways to train the Maninka in the way of Jesus Christ.