Ethnic Groups in Myanmar

Home to approximately 135 ethnic groups, Myanmar is an incredibly diverse nation. Burmese (also called Myanmar) is the national language. However, many ethnic groups have their own languages that are quite distinct from Burmese. In remote areas, some only speak their ethnic languages.

Asian Children’s Mission works with nine of these groups, some of which are categorized as “Least Reached” by the Joshua Project (an organization that tracks people groups in all countries to measure the progress of the fulfillment of the Great Commission). According to the Joshua Project, there are over 16,000 people groups, with more than 7,000 being largely unreached by the Gospel.

Below is a list of the ethnic groups ACM serves. Groups with an asterisk (*) next to the name denote a group that is considered “Least Reached” (a people group with fewer than 5% professing Christians and less than 2% evangelical Christians).

Man and woman in white wedding clothes.

A Burmese couple in traditional wedding attire.

The Burmese are the ethnic majority in Myanmar. Less than 1% of Burmese are Christian, with the overwhelming majority Buddhist. ACM’s outreach to the Buddhists is in southern Myanmar, in the area commonly known as “the delta.” It was this area that was nearly destroyed by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. ACM was among the first organizations on the ground to provide emergency aid in the delta region following the cyclone. At the invitation of village leaders, including Buddhist monks, ACM sent Myanmar Christian school teachers into the villages to replace teachers who were killed in the cyclone. In addition, some orphans that lost their families due to the cyclone are housed in Hope Children’s Home and attend one of our preschools. ACM has also installed water purification units and helped to drill wells for clean water in several of these villages. Because of ACM’s outreach to children, four churches have been established in Burmese Buddhist communities.

A couple in traditional Chin attire.

A couple in traditional Chin attire.

Many Chins are Christians. They have suffered persecution from the military dictatorship, and many have become refugees. ACM has assisted with a relief mission to the Chins during a time of famine. Also, ACM completed a water diversion project to provide safe water for a village in Chin state.

Asian Children’s Mission has partnered with indigenous missionaries to drill wells in Kanaan villages. We have also helped provide medicine and medical training to the Kanaan people. There are fewer than 10 Christians among this ethnic group of 15,000-20,000 people.

Working with a Khamti-Shan evangelist, Asian Children’s Mission provided funds for a small agricultural business to increase food security among the Khamti Shan people. We have also provided Sunday School teacher training and curriculum for the small church that exists among this people group. Some students from this group attend an ACM-funded Christian high school.

Lisu girls in traditional dress.

Lisu girls in traditional dress.

Josiah, the director of Hope Children’s Home, is Lisu. Also, all the children and staff at Loving Fountain are Lisu. The Lisu tribe was evangelized by James Frasier (Baptist) and members of the Morse family. Until the arrival of the missionaries in the early 1900s, the Lisu had only an oral language. Frasier developed the Lisu alphabet and eventually worked with others to translate portions of the Bible into Lisu. ACM continues to assist Lisu churches through providing Sunday School curriculum and teacher training. Some Lisu attend our preschools as well as our Christian high school. We have also provided famine relief in Lisu villages.

A couple in Mro traditional dress.

Mro traditional dress.

The Mro are a part of the larger Chin ethnic group, but have their own language and culture. Indigenous missionaries are evangelizing the Mro, and many Mro have become Christians and are assuming leadership roles in the Mro church. We assist the growing Mro church through our Sunday School teacher training and curriculum, and in the past we have provided food relief during famine.

Naga new year celebration

Men marching in the Naga New Year celebration.

Until the 1960s, the Nagas were head hunters. They live in mountainous areas so remote that wild elephants will occasionally trample a village. Many grow opium. However, there are thriving churches among the Nagas, and their leaders would like to see more education and community development in their villages. Asian Children’s Mission has led one seminar on health and community development for Naga leaders, as well as a Sunday School teacher training. We hope to assist with community development activities in the future.

A couple in Rakhine traditional dress.

A couple in Rakhine traditional dress.

During the installation of a rainwater collection project in the region, the Rakhine engineer overseeing the project overheard the Gospel being taught to some Mro Christians. The engineer returned and asked more questions, and soon bought several leaders from his township to hear the Gospel. Many believed and became Christians. A small church has now been established. The Rakhines are overwhelmingly Buddhist. This engineer and his family are among the first Rakhine converts. ACM has also provided relief during famine to Rakhine people.

The Rawang ethnic group is largely Christian and was evangelized by the Morse missionary family, among others. Both Joel and Maeram, two members of the ACM leadership team, are Rawang. Asian Children’s Mission assists the Rawang church through a water diversion project to provide safe water, land registration for agriculture, a Christian high school and Sunday School teacher training.

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