Intha in Myanmar (Burma)

Photo Source:  Second Wind Network 
Map Source:  People Group location: SIL / WLMS. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Intha
Country: Myanmar (Burma)
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 103,000
World Population: 103,000
Primary Language: Intha
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 0.10 %
Evangelicals: 0.07 %
Scripture: Translation Started
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Burmese
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Myanmar gained its independence from Britain in 1948. Much of modern Burmese history has tragically been one of civil wars between the Burmese majority and the nation's minority groups that includes the Shan, Karen, Lahu and Rohingya. The Burmese military launched another coup in 2021 and is currently ruling the country.

The Intha people live in central Myanmar or Burma on and near Lake Inle. They speak a nonstandard variety of Burmese. The Intha make their living through agriculture and fishing.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Many Intha villages are built and float on top of Lake Inle. The easiest way to travel for the Intha is by boat. The Intha have the unusual custom of rowing with their legs not their arms. Rowing by leg takes special balance and practice. This leg rowing frees the hands of the Intha to work on things while moving across the lake.

Fishing is an important industry for the Intha. They dry and salt the fish they catch on the lake. Then they sell the fish in order to buy things they cannot make for themselves. Agriculture is also a key business among the Intha. They cultivate rice, tropical fruits, vegetables, coconuts, and palm trees on the shores of the lake. Women make jewelry to sell on market days.

Marriage to one spouse is the norm. Since access to modern medicine in limited, life expectancy is low and child mortality is high. When someone gets ill, the family often first visits the village shaman, not a physician. The Intha are primarily an oral culture. They have a rich tradition of songs, dances and festive clothing which they wear on Buddhist holiday. If a son joins a Buddhist monastery, it is an honor for the boy's family. Children especially girls frequently quit school after a few years to help their families make a living.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Almost all of the Intha people are Theravada Buddhists. Though local evangelists have visited the Intha, they are strongly attached to their Buddhist practice and animist beliefs and have not been receptive to belief in Jesus Christ.

Buddhism is the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, who lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation.

To most Buddhists, however, these things have far less meaning than their traditional beliefs, which are usually animistic. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Buddhism allows people to mix Buddhist teachings with traditional religion.

Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday in December or January which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

What Are Their Needs?

Teams of believers can bring modern medicine and solar panels to the Intha. Since the Intha people speak a non-standard variety of Burmese, they would probably be able to adequately use the Burmese Bible. However, it would be beneficial to produce evangelistic materials (such as audio-visual materials, songs, tracts, etc.) in the Intha heart language.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to send Holy Spirit anointed workers to the Intha.

Pray that the hearts of the Intha would be softened and open to hearing the good news.

Pray the spiritual resources will be translated into the Intha's language.

Pray that the Lord raises up a disciple making movement among the Intha of Myanmar in this decade.

Text Source:   Joshua Project