The Khalkha are the largest group of Mongols in Mongolia. In fact, they are the core of all the Mongol peoples across North Asia. The Khalkha Mongols consider themselves the direct descendants of Genghis Khan and therefore, the true preservers of Mongol culture.
In the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan formed one of the greatest empires in world history by uniting all of the nomadic Mongol tribes. During the centuries that followed, the once mighty Mongol empire was squeezed between the growing Russian and Chinese empires. In the early 1920s, Mongolia became a Marxist state until its quiet democratic revolution in 1990.
The Khalkha Mongols consider their language, Halh, to be the "real" Mongolian language, since all other Mongols speak variations or dialects of Halh. Halh is understood throughout Mongolia and by Mongols living in Central Asia.
Mongolia was once one of the most closed countries in the world, but is now relatively open to outside influence, including Christianity.
What Are Their Lives Like?
There is a large population of Khalkha Mongol nomads. They live in herding camps and migrate seasonally with their animals. Their housing takes the form of portable gers, which are round felt tents that have brightly painted wooden doors. The nomads raise horses, cattle, and sheep and migrate four or five times a year in search of fresh pastures.
Some Khalkha Mongols are now settled farmers who live and work on collective (community) farms. Those who live in the cities occupy Soviet-built apartment complexes. Many have found jobs in industry, mining, or transport.
Due to the harshness of the climate in Mongolia, the Khalkha Mongol diet consists primarily of fat, meat (mainly mutton), milk, and dairy products. Large amounts of fat and mutton are eaten during the winter, and dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and sour cream are eaten during the summer. Their favorite drink is airag or kumiss, which is fermented mare's milk.
Khalkha Mongols traditionally married while they were very young. The girls were usually 13 or 14, and the boys were only a few years older. Today, couples usually marry while they are in their early to mid-twenties; then they immediately begin having children. Urban Khalkha Mongols, especially those with a college education, tend to delay marriage until they reach their late twenties. Birth control is discouraged in Mongolia. Families with six or more children are given financial benefits.
Khalkha Mongols love music, folk dances, chess, and sporting events. Every July, the ancient Naadam festival is celebrated throughout Mongolia. Sporting events are held in horse racing, archery, and wrestling.
Many are nomads living in herding camps, and migrating seasonably with their animals.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Khalkha Mongols were traditionally Shamanists (belief in an unseen world of gods, demons, and spirits). The people depended on shamans (medicine men) to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events.
In the late 1500s, the Mongols were introduced to Tibetan Buddhism, and most Mongols converted to Buddhism at that time. By 1900, more than half of Mongolia's males were serving as priests in Buddhist monasteries. However, as a result of an anti-religious movement launched by the Marxist government in the 1930s, about three-quarters of the Khalkha Mongols became either non-religious or atheists.
Today, a number of Khalkha Mongols have returned to the beliefs of their forefathers. Shamans are once again called upon to cure the sick or alleviate evil spirits through divination, oracles, and astrology. A combination of Buddhism and Shamanism has survived, especially among the elderly. Obos, heaps of stones thought to be inhabited by local spirits, can still be seen on almost every hilltop.
What Are Their Needs?
Mongolia's distance from the sea and poor roads have contributed to a poor economy. One-third of the country lives in extreme poverty. Rape, murder, alcoholism, and violence are major problems in Mongolia's urban areas today. Many young people are also involved in criminal gangs.
Pray that Christian workers would have unity as they reach this large unreached people group for Jesus.
Pray that Mongol men would rise up to become strong in the Lord.
Pray that God will open the hearts of Khalkha Mongol government leaders to the Gospel.
Ask God to set Khalkha Mongols free from their bondage to occultism and Shamanistic beliefs.
Pray that the doors of Mongolia will soon open to Christian missionaries.
Pray that alcoholism, violence, and divorce will be wiped out.
Ask God to raise up teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for Khalkha Mongols.
Pray that Christians will have opportunities to introduce Khalkha Mongols to the Prince of Peace.
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