Introduction / History
The Mru tribe is very isolated. Their language is also called Mru. They are primarily located in the region where the borders of India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar intersect. Some live in one of the nearly two hundred villages located in the tropical forests of the Chittagong Hills in southeast Bangladesh. Most however, are concentrated in the plains and hills of western Myanmar's Arakan Yoma district, or in the Jalpaiguri district of northeastern India.
What Are Their Lives Like?
A majority of the Mru are farmers. Although they have been introduced to the irrigation methods of wet-rice farming, most of them continue to practice "slash and burn" agriculture on the hill sides. This makes them a semi-nomadic tribe since they must go to new fields every two years. Both the men and women share in the fieldwork. Rice is the dominant crop for the Mru who live in Myanmar.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Mru are a very poor people. Although they inhabit a region that is rich in lumber and hydroelectric potential, the villagers lack the technology and knowledge to improve their economic conditions. For this reason, they continue to live as poor farmers. They excuse their poverty because they believe that their god, Torai, intended them to live this way. At the same time, they pride themselves in their self-sufficiency. Each household produces its own goods. They also travel to the lowlands to visit the weekly markets where they exchange cotton for items such as cloth, salt, knives, and pottery. In addition to farming, many of the Mru men are skilled in producing bamboo items. Mru women are especially fond of wearing jewelry and other ornaments made by local craftsmen.
The Mru typically live in houses made of timber or bamboo. The roofs are either made of thatch or tiles. Some of the homes are built on stilts to give protection from wild animals or floods. The farm animals live under the houses at night. In some small towns in Myanmar, a few Mru live in brick homes with concrete floors.
The Mru society is divided into clans, phratries (related clans), and kinship groups. They may marry outside their clans, and maybe even outside the phratries. Politically, the village community is democratic. Though there is a village headman, he has only nominal authority. There are no educational facilities among the Mr which limits their options for work and advancement.
When a young Mru man reaches the age of 16, he begins seeking attention by arranging his hair in braids on the top of his head. He also puts floral headpieces as adornments on his turban. Promiscuity before marriage is freely tolerated, although accidental pregnancy leads to immediate marriage. The young people are generally free to choose their own marriage partners. They need only parental permission.
When he decides who he wants to marry, the youth, his father and a couple other villagers visit the home of the prospective bride. They bring two birds, a spear and a dagger as a gift to her parents. Her family eats the birds and cooks pork for the groom and his entourage. After they have eaten the groom's father talks with the girl asking for consent to marry his son. They agree upon a dowry.
Young married couples usually live with the bride or groom's family after marriage. Once the couple has several children of their own, they build a separate home. As time goes on, she visits her parent's home, but not often.
Virtually all of the Mru of India and Bangladesh practice ethnic religions that have some elements of Buddhism. They worship the gods of fire, water and the forest. Their belief in the legend of Torai rules their lives. This legend says that the Mru's ancestors sent a cow to Torai, the great spirit, to seek help when they realized other tribes had a written language and rules for living. Torai wrote the rules on banana leaves, but an evil animal ate them, leaving the Mru destitute. The highlight of their year is a two-day festival in which they sacrifice a heifer in memory of this occasion.
What Are Their Needs?
The Mru are a very needy people, both physically and spiritually. They struggle with poverty and illiteracy, as well as the ideology that their god, Torai, desires them to remain that way. Additional laborers, Christian broadcasts, and evangelistic materials in the Mru language are desperately needed.
* Scripture Prayers for the Mru in India.
Pray for the Lord to send Holy Spirit anointed workers to the Mru people wherever they live.
Pray for a willingness among Mru elders to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Pray that this will be the decade of a powerful Disciple Making Movement among the Mru people.