Myanmar
Union of Myanmar
August 20-21
Asia


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 676,577 sq.km. Basin and delta of the Irrawaddy River ringed by a horseshoe of high mountains that isolates the country from India, China and Thailand.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 45,611,177 +1.24% 67 per sq. km.
2010 50,902,661 +1.07% 75 per sq. km.
2025 58,120,485 +0.76% 86 per sq. km.

More recent estimates indicate the population in 2000 to be 49 million.

Capital Yangon 5,000,000. Other major city: Mandalay 800,000. Urbanites 27%.

PEOPLES

Very diverse ethnically. Official figures downplay the sizes of ethnic minorities.

Sino-Tibetan 89.3%.

Burmese (Bama) 57.5%

Other 19.8%. Karen(16) 4.8 mill.; Chin(8 languages, numerous dialects) 1.2m; Arakanese (Rakhine) 730,000; Kachin(8) 900,000; Taungyo 620,000; Intha 200,000; Kado 180,000; Chaungtha 170,000; Lisu(2) 170,000; Akha 140,000; Rawang 100,000.

Tai 8.5%. Shan (3) 3.2m; Lu-Tai(3) 320,000.

Chinese 3.5%. Large increase in 1990s.

Mon-Khmer 5.7%. Over 13 peoples, the largest: Mon 1.1m; Palaung(5) 600,000; Wa (Vo, Kawa) 1.1m; Khmu 100,000.

Other 5%. Rohingya 1.4m; Indian 750,000; Nepali (Gurkhali) 200,000; Malay 26,000; Moken (Sea Gypsy) 5,000.

Literacy 83%. Official language: Burmese. All languages 107. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 10NT 16por.

ECONOMY

Rich in natural resources, but ravaged by the greed of its rulers. Few countries have been so effectively plundered and impoverished by its own leaders. The large teak forests are being stripped. The most successful export is opium, producing over 50% of the world's supply from the so-called Golden Triangle in the Lao-Thai border region. HDI 0.580; 128th/174. Public debt 4% of GNP. Income/person $2,610 (8% of USA).

POLITICS

The country has known little peace since the Japanese invasion of World War II, in 1942. Independent from Britain in 1948 as a Federal Union of seven districts and seven ethnic minority states. Insensitivity of the central government to the aspirations of ethnic minorities provoked unrest and bitter ethnic wars in nine areas. Popular demands for democratic rule opened the way for elections in 1990. The opposition party won 85% of the seats, but the military regime refused to hand over power. The secretive military junta, the 'State Peace and Development Council', has turned Myanmar into a prison with widespread human rights abuses and killings, forced labour, rape and imprisonment used as tools of repression. Most of the democratic leaders have been arrested, exiled or killed. A member of ASEAN.

RELIGION

Officially Buddhism is no longer the state religion, but the military regime actively promotes it. Theoretically, there is freedom of religion, but because Christianity is strong among the restive ethnic minorities there is much discrimination against Christians. There have been many cases of enforced conversions to Buddhism and violence against rural Christians. Persecution index 30th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Buddhist 82.90 37,811,666 +0.9%
Christian 8.70 3,970,000 +3.8%
Muslim 3.80 1,733,225 +1.2%
Chinese 3.00 1,368,335 +9.8%
Traditional ethnic 0.80 364,889 -3.2%
Hindu 0.50 228,056 +1.2%
non-Religious/other 0.30 136,834 +1.2%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 26 6.02 2,747 +3.6%
Independent 41 1.22 556 +6.2%
Anglican 1 0.12 57 +2.6%
Catholic 1 1.32 600 +2.2%
Marginal 1 0.02 10 +5.2%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Myanmar Baptist Conv P 3,750 617,781 1,900,000
Catholic C 1,096 372,671 600,000
Assemblies of God P 1,500 110,000 255,000
Churches of Christ P 1,200 100,000 180,000
Methodist P 300 60,000 100,000
Lisu Christian I 583 35,000 75,000
Ch of Prov of M A 731 27,794 56,700
Seventh-day Adventist P 173 20,555 50,000
Evangelical Free P 420 12,000 30,000
Presbyterian P 256 11,785 29,496
Self Supp Karen Bapt I 140 14,000 28,000
Believers Church (GFA) I 600 15,625 25,000
Christian Brethren P 110 9,200 23,000
Mara Evangelical I 96 10,938 17,170
Foursquare Gospel P 85 6,000 11,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 113 2,950 10,178
Full Gospel Assembly I 27 5,000 9,000
Christian Reformed P 71 2,800 3,500
Chr & Miss Alliance P 9 1,989 3,000
Other denoms [50]   4,815 356,000 529,000
Total Christians [69]   16,170 1,811,000 3,970,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 5.2 2,355 +4.2%
Charismatic 0.8 350 +6.3%
  Pentecostal 0.6 287 +6.7%

Missionaries from Myanmar
P,I,A 3,160 in 40 agencies: 3,100 in Myanmar.

Missionaries to Myanmar
P,I,A 159 in 32 agencies.



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Answers to Prayer

1 Despite the isolation and repression of Christians, there has been considerable growth among some ethnic minorities and a great interest in the gospel among Buddhist monks. There have been examples of outstanding miracles leading to many conversions.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Four decades of repressive military rule have isolated the nation and brought it to destitution. Widespread despair followed the repression of democracy in 1990. The courage of the leader of the main opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi, was recognized in her being awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. She has remained under house arrest since 1990. Pray that the international community and the other ASEAN members might speak out and act to bring democracy. Pray for an orderly transfer to a just and democratic government that will rebuild the country with both democratic and religious freedom.

2 There has been continual warfare since 1942. Since independence, the central government has sought to crush dissension among ethnic minorities. Massive destruction of property and life has deeply affected the Karen, Shan, Wa and Chin peoples particularly. During the 1990s there were up to 2 million refugees – most within Myanmar, and many in India, Bangladesh and Thailand. Pray for ethnic harmony, effective federalism and peace.

3 The isolation of the Church in Myanmar has lasted for 30 years. All Protestant and most Catholic missions were expelled in 1966. Praise God for foundations laid by Adoniram Judson, the famous American Baptist missionary, and those who followed – for on these foundations the Church has grown and become an effective missionary-sending body. Pray for the removal of restrictions on fellowship with Christians from other lands.

4 The military regime is seeking to marginalize and even eliminate the Church, yet growth continues. Christianity has been deeply rooted and has grown stronger in adversity. Many Christians are well-educated and are in positions of responsibility all over the country. However, growth slowed during the 1980s because of liberal theology. Growth is now most marked in the newer denominations. The most growth has been among ethnic minorities – the entire northern Chin groups, Lushai Chin, Mara, Matu Chin in southern Chin State and the majority of several Kachin groups (Jingphaw, Rawang), Lisu and Lahu and 40% of the Karen are Christian. Pray that they may continue to evangelize every sub-group in their respective peoples and reach out to other unreached peoples and to the Burmese majority.

5 Challenges facing the Church in Myanmar:

a) Fortitude and faithfulness under persecution. There is much freedom yet also there are many imposed restrictions – on buildings, proselytizing, job opportunities and importation of literature. There have been many cases of Christians being forced to build Buddhist temples and to renounce their faith.

b) Liberal theology in some of the older, ecumenical seminaries is creating a church leadership that scorns evangelicals and the message of new birth. Pray that the Bible may retain its rightful place in the affections of both leaders and church members.

c) Nominalism among third- and fourth-generation Christians is widespread. Pray for revival.

d) Most Christians are from minority groups which are embroiled in military actions against the central government. Pray that this may not cause bitterness, hatred of other peoples, compromise of their faith, or blunting of a missions vision.

e) Reconciliation and unity among Christians is a serious need. The causes of division are various – ethnic, political, passivism or military activism, and doctrinal. Pray that the Myanmar Biblical Christian Fellowship and the Myanmar Evangelical Christian Fellowship may effectively promote unity.

6 Theological education is of vital importance. There are over 90 theological institutions in Myanmar. Many are liberal in theology. Many are tribally based and are basic and small in student numbers with few resources. Pray specifically for the 15 member institutions of the evangelical Myanmar Theological Association. For special prayer mention: the Evangel Bible College (AoG, 60 students), ACTS Bible College (Church on the Rock, 90 students), Hebron (Brethren, 20 students) and Evangelical Bible Seminary – the last with over 120 students from many denominations and impacting the Church in a significant way.

7 Buddhism is strongly entrenched among the Burmese majority, the Shan and the Mon, and of deep influence in more animistic peoples. The power of demonic spirits, astrology, superstition and the occult pervades all sections of the community. Only about 5% of Christians have come to Christ out of Buddhism. Pray for significant breakthroughs in every people and demonstrations of the power of Jesus. Pray also for conversions among the 750,000 Buddhist monks – many of whom have shown great interest in Christian radio broadcasts.

8 The least evangelized peoples:

a) The Bama (Burmese) peoples. There are only about 50,000 Christians among them. It is not easy for tribal believers to witness to them because of the years of mistrust, nor is it easy for the politically dominant Bama to receive the gospel from them without prejudice. Pray for conversions among this staunchly Buddhist people.

b) The Shan are Buddhist, related to the Thai and live in the Golden Triangle. They have suffered much in the wars with the military regime. Drugs and AIDS are major scourges. Only 0.6% are Christian, and few have Bibles. The archaic Shan NT is being rewritten.

c) Other Buddhist minorities have few Christians – the Palaung (0.2%); Mon (0.9%); Taungyo (0.5%); Lu (0.6%) and numerous other smaller groups.

d) The more animistic peoples. Some are less reached, but significant turnings are now taking place among the Southern Chin, Naga, Mru, Rawang, Mahei, Wa and Akha. Pray for the emergence of vital church-planting movements among each of them. Poverty, opium-growing, lack of Christian literature – especially the Scriptures – and inadequate teaching are negatives.

e) The Chinese. There were 62 churches and 10,000 believers in 1990 with 2% of their population Christian. The massive influx of Chinese over the Yunnan border from China has reduced this percentage. Mandalay is now 30% Chinese. Many of these Chinese in the north are less reached.

f) The Chettiyars, an Indian minority, who originated from the former French enclaves in India, and other Indians from many states in India. Among them are Muslims and Hindus. Very little outreach has been directed towards them.

g) The Rohingya of Arakan, Muslim descendants of Arabs, Moors, Moghuls and Bengalis who settled in Arakan 1,000 years ago. The Myanmar military regime has denied them citizenship, and in both 1978 and 1991 over 250,000 were driven from their homes and forced to become refugees in Bangladesh. They have since been permitted to return, but have become marginalized and introverted. There are no known Christians among them.

h) The Hindus and Nepalis were long neglected. In 1928 the first church among them was planted and now there are just a few groups of believers.

i) AIDS victims. AIDS is a major disaster with over 530,000 infected (2% of the population), and over 43,000 orphans. The causes are girls driven to prostitution on a large scale in Thailand, intravenous drug-taking and large movements of people as forced labourers. Virtually nothing is being done to prevent its spread or meet the overwhelming emotional and spiritual needs of those affected.

9 The missionary vision of the Church has led to new peoples opening up to the gospel. There are an estimated 900 or so cross-cultural Myanmarese serving the Lord. Their main sending bodies are the Baptists, AoG, Presbyterians, Christian Brethren and Churches of Christ. GFA is the largest agency which works with the Believers Church and they have 800 missionaries and 2 missionary training schools with over 270 students. Pray for this vision to be sustained, supported and expanded and then bear much fruit.

10 Christian help ministries for prayer:

a) There is a shortage of Bibles and all forms of Christian literature in Burmese and minority languages because of import restrictions. Some Burmese Bibles and NTs are being printed in Myanmar, but funding and supplies are difficult to obtain. The Evangelical Literature Centre (7 bookstores) and CLC (1 bookstore in Yangon) are providing critically needed literature through publishing.

b) Bible translation is a major challenge. There are teams working on 14 NT translations, but at least a further 14, and possibly up to 54, languages need translation. Most of the work will need to be done by Myanmar translators. Pray for evangelical translators to be raised up to continue existing programmes and for an adequate survey of the remaining unmet need.

c) Christian radio has been effective with broadcasting in 17 languages. Major radio agencies and their broadcasting languages: FEBC (Akha, Burmese, Jingpo, Chin (4), Karen (2), Lahu, Lisu, Lushai, Palaung, Rawang and Shan) and TWR (Burmese, English). Bama listeners are becoming more receptive as a result. Pray for the production of programmes and provision of equipment.

d) The JESUS film has been widely shown in film and on television.

e) GRN has made recordings available in 149 languages, but importation and distribution problems limit their usefulness.

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