Introduction / History
The Red Tai live along the banks of the Red River, which winds through the high valleys of northeastern Laos near the border of northern Vietnam. The Red Tai's name comes from the Red River.
Centuries ago, the Red Tai lived in China. Relentless pressure by the Chinese gradually forced them southward. Eventually they settled along the Red and Black Rivers, where they found themselves in the landlocked country of Laos and completely dependent on others to survive. Laos endured years of invasions, a series of land wars, and then a French colonial possession. Now an independent country, Laos has good relations with all of its neighbors, including countries such as Russia and the United States. However, the lack of an outlet to the sea means it is still dependent on outsiders.
The Red Tai speak a tonal language, Tai Daeng. They are members of a larger cultural linguistic group of Tai peoples that includes the Laotians, the Shan, and others.
What are their lives like?
The Red Tai are extremely polite, respectful, and hospitable. Their children are brought up to respect those of a higher rank and to become self-reliant individuals. Age is highly respected in Red Tai society. Type of occupation, wealth, and place and type of residence follow age in terms of respect and rank. Rural farmers rank below craftsmen, merchants, and city government officials; and clergy are a separate group.
Families are the core of Red Tai society. In rural areas, the entire immediate family lives together with mutual respect for each other. A young married couple may live with the wife's family until they can establish their own home. Although the father is considered the head of the family, Red Tai husbands and wives appear to have a harmonious relationship. In fact, the Red Tai are distinguished by an almost equal division of labor by sex. Both men and women plow, fish, cook, tend to the babies, clean house, and wash clothes.
The Red Tai live in small, self-governing villages that are usually contained in a single valley. Each village is under the control of the chao muong, or prince, to whom the commoners pay taxes. Although the Red Tai are Laotian citizens, they have very little say so in the government.
Most of the Red Tai live on small valley farms. Wet-rice, the major crop, supplies both a food staple and a cash crop. Many of the Red Tai work as blacksmiths. This is an important occupation, especially in villages along trade routes. The construction of new roads has helped increase accessibility to the rural areas, which is opening new opportunities for the Red Tai. Improved highways also allow the government more effective control and make services more readily available to the rural dwellers.
What are their beliefs?
Almost all of the Red Tai combine folk animism (belief that non-living objects have spirits) with Buddhism. They worship various spirits and objects, and also believe that people have "multiple personal souls." They hold ceremonies for "recalling" the souls because they believe that this will strengthen the individual personality. The Red Tai believe in spirits of the dead, the natural world, the political world, various localities, etc.
More than one-third of Red Tai are Buddhists. They are followers of Buddha ("the enlightened one") and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in pursuit of perfect peace, or nirvana. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and attending worship services.
Traditionally, each village has its own Buddhist temple or monastery. The young men usually attend the village monasteries for about three months to study Buddhism.
What are their needs?
The Red Tai are almost completely unreached with the Gospel. There is a great need for more evangelistic tools in the Tai Daeng language.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Laos to minister to the needs of the Red Tai.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Red Tai Christians.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Red Tai towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Red Tai church for the glory of His name!