Introduction / History The Burmese are originally from the hills of Tibet in western China. Today, many of them live in southern Bangladesh near the Bay of Bengal. Tropical monsoons are common in this region, frequently causing devastating floods and cyclones. They speak Bama, a Tibeto-Burmese language. Many also speak Bengali.
The Burmese are the political, economic, and religious leaders of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Myanmar has had a long history of coups, rebellions, and wars. Ethnic divisions and political unrest have been common since the first Burmese kingdom in the eleventh century. Many Burmese fled to Bangladesh in hopes of finding a more peaceful climate. Unfortunately, Bangladesh has had its own problems, especially with invasions of the Burmese who were repelled by the British colonies. The Burmese refugees have also placed a strain on Bangladesh's economy. The Burmese have lived in a constant state of instability and fear.
What are their lives like? The Burmese are limited to farming for survival. Rice is their basic means of economic support, and it is the main occupation for personal consumption and export. The rich soil also supports sugarcane, mustard, tobacco, and various fruits and vegetables. Fish is an important part of their diet, especially for those living near the coast. Meat is rarely eaten due to its outrageous cost and their vegetarian tendencies.
It is a daily task for a whole Burmese family to go out into the fields to work. Mothers work with their babies, while the older children accompany their grandparents. Cattle and buffalo are raised to draw the heavy wooden plows and very little modern equipment is used. Oxen and water buffaloes are far more common than tractors.
The Burmese farmers live in villages among trees or along roads or rivers leading into the Ganges Delta. The wealthier people often live in sturdy, mahogany homes that are raised off the ground and have plank floors and tile roofs. Those with lower incomes may live in thatched roof, bamboo houses that have dirt floors. All activities take place on the dirt floors, including eating and sleeping. Therefore, it is extremely impolite to enter a Burmese house wearing shoes.
The single most important social institution in the village is the temple. It symbolizes unity among the villagers, and provides a wide variety of activities for the people. The Burmese do not recognize clans or lineages. Marriages are monogamous, and rarely arranged by the parents. Young couples generally live with the brides' parents for the first few years after they are married. They will set up their own homes after two or three years.
What are their beliefs? The Burmese are predominantly Hinayana Buddhists. The traditional goal in Buddhism is to seek the middle path to nirvana, or ultimate peace. The Burmese have mixed these Buddhist beliefs with their own animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits).
Their animistic beliefs center around inherently evil spirits called nats. The Burmese spend their lives trying to appease the nats so that they will be protected from any other evil spirits that may seek to harm them. All Burmese homes have altars for the spirits, as well as a statue of Buddha.
According to their Buddhist faith, the Burmese believe that death is not a threat to one who has done good deeds. Instead, death is simply a "passing" from one life to another. Buddhists believe that those with less merit are reborn as demons, ghosts, animals, or inhabitants of hell.
What are their needs? The Burmese left their homeland, Myanmar, in search of peace. Unfortunately, the peace they desired has not been found in Bangladesh. They are in need of loving Christians who will introduce them to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Very few of the Burmese community has come to Christ. Fervent prayer and effective evangelism are the keys to seeing them reached with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Bangladesh and share the love of Christ with the Burmese.
* Ask God to use the few Burmese believers to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will being faithfully interceding for these precious people.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Burmese.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Burmese towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Burmese of Bangladesh.