Many Nepalese fled from Nepal when it became a nation-state in the 1950’s. To escape the demands of the state and enhance their standard of living, they settled in various parts of northern India, as well as the neighboring countries of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a uniquely unspoiled country where there is little public pressure to modernize. This has allowed the country to maintain its traditional charm. The people who live there lead very simple lives. The official language is Burmese, but more than 100 distinct languages are spoken. The Nepalese population speak Khas Kura, a form of Nepali.
Although a majority of the people living in Myanmar are Buddhists, the Nepalese make up a very small Hindu minority. Like other Hindu, the Nepalese belong to a “caste” structure which has only two categories: upper class landowners and lower class servants.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Nepalese in Myanmar are farmers. Only the poorest families do not own land. Wet rice is grown during the monsoon season, whereas dry rice, maize, millet, and wheat are raised on the drier land during the summer and winter months. The Nepalese also cultivate vegetable gardens to feed their families. Most of the farmers raise buffalo and goats for meat and cows for milk.
Nepalese villages consist of loosely grouped homes surrounded by farm land. The villages are generally situated near rivers or springs, and the homes are connected by footpaths. Sometimes the paths meet together near a large tree that is used as a meeting place for the villagers, as well as a resting place for travelers. There are also a number of larger towns where the important temples or monasteries are located.
Houses are usually made of mud-brick with thatch or tin roofs. The bottom portion of the houses are painted with red clay and the top halves are whitewashed. The houses usually have two or more stories. The kitchen and living quarters are often located upstairs to keep them free of pollution by stray animals that might wander into the house. Most houses have porches and courtyards where people socialize and do chores such as weaving.
Nepalese children are treated well. Breast-feeding may continue until a child is three years old. There are many rites of passage for children such as the first rice feeding and the first haircut. When they are about eight years old, the children begin doing domestic chores. Girls help care for the younger children, carry food for the animals, and haul water. The boys usually tend to the animals.
Typically, women do the bulk of the work in the field. They till the soil, plant, weed, and harvest the crops. They also dry, separate, and often husk the grain. The main responsibilities for men include plowing, fixing the terraces, and irrigating the crops.
There are some Nepalese who live in the urban areas of Myanmar. Even though they are educated, they may only have low-paying jobs. Being foreigners, they are fortunate if they have jobs at all.
What are their beliefs?
Virtually all of the Nepalese in Myanmar are Hindus, worshipping millions of gods. They also believe in ghosts and demons that haunt the crossroads and rivers. Offerings are made to these spirits in order to appease them.
Hinduism teaches that while the deities appear in separate forms, these forms are part of one universal spirit called Brahman. The most important deiteis are Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. In Hindu thought, man is not a separate entity, but is actually a part of Brahman.
What are their needs?
The Nepalese are held captive by the deception of their beliefs. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the Gospel.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is currently working among the Nepalese of Myanmar.
* Pray that God will encourage the few known Nepalese who have converted to Christianity.
* Ask God to give these new believers opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via television and radio among the Nepalese.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Myanmar’s governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Nepalese.
Text source: Bethany World Prayer Center © 1999.