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Arakanese, Magh in India

Arakanese, Magh

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Map source: Omid / Joshua Project
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
46,000 Magahi Buddhism 0.57 % Unknown   

Arakanese, Magh in India

People Group Video [7]
Source:  Asia HarvestWatchDownload
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Introduction / History
Centuries ago, the most feared pirates and sailors in the Bay of Bengal terrorized communities along the seacoast and far up the river channels of what is now Bangladesh. They were called maghs, or pirates. This continues to be the popular name of this tribe, originally from the Arakan region of Burma. Today, they are settled in the Chittagong Hills area of southeastern Bangladesh.

The people themselves dislike the term "Magh" and prefer to be called Marmas, which means "Burmese." They are of Thai origin and are believed to have come to the hills of Bangladesh by way of Arakan after their ancestors were driven out of China. They speak Arakanese, a Tibeto-Burman language, and regard Burma as the center of their cultural life.

Bangladesh is a new nation, having begun its course when the Muslim population broke away from Hindu India in 1947, forming East and West Pakistan. In 1971, internal strife precipitated a civil war, and East Pakistan became independent Bangladesh.

What are their lives like?
Having left the seas long ago, the Maghi (Arakanese) are now valley farmers. Forced out of the plains and into the hills by more powerful groups, they have adopted the "slash and burn" method of agriculture. In Maghi society, farm land is community property. After one year's use, the field must be left fallow for a sufficient time to let the earth recover. After the fallow period, anyone and everyone can work this field. No individual, family, or kinship group has prerogative rights to the land. Farming and other activities tie families to the community and the community to families.

The Maghi continue to write and dress in ways similar to Burmese culture, although many in the northern Chittagong Hills have come under significant Bengali influence. According to their custom, marriages are restricted to within the clan. Maghi villages consist of 10 to 50 houses built on the banks of streams. The houses are generally flimsy structures constructed on bamboo piles. Often, a roofed platform at the end of the village street serves as a community house where men socialize, share stories, and discuss village business.

The Maghi are one of the few tribes in the Chittagong Hills who have clan chiefs and display formal tribal and clan organization. Following traditional tribal culture, villages are headed by representatives chosen by the villagers. They are often assisted by an informal council of elders. In order to connect with the Bengali government, the tribal areas are divided and subdivided into geographical regions, with the tribal head of each small area responsible to the leader of the larger region.

What are their beliefs?
Although several religions are represented among the Maghi, the most common religion is a blend of Buddhism and animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits). The theology of Buddhism alleges that man undergoes a cycle of separate existences and that all living things are endowed with individual souls. A devout Buddhist is able to progress toward his goal of nirvana-a state of eternal bliss-through the accumulation of merit-earning acts.

The animistic ingredient includes the worship and appeasement of local spirits, such as house spirits, village spirits, and territorial spirits, which rule over rice fields, forests, lakes, rivers, and other places. In order to avoid accidents, misfortune, and illnesses, one must try to manipulate and placate the spirits through rituals and offerings of food and flowers. Male and female mediums enter trances to attempt to communicate with the spirits so that they might discover future events.

What are their needs?
The Maghi, along with other tribal groups of the Chittagong Hills, have experienced oppression from the Bengali government and from settlers moving into their tribal territories. As a result of the economic poverty and land hunger in Bangladesh, many Maghi have experienced large scale evictions, torture, and massacres. Also, the devout, animistic Buddhist traditions have made the tribe members unreceptive to the Gospel in the past.

Prayer Points
* Pray for justice in the Bengali government's treatment of the Maghi and the other tribal peoples.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Maghi.
* Pray that God will give the Maghi believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Maghi.
* Ask God to speed evangelistic materials into the Maghi language.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Maghi towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Maghi.

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Rakhine State
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Country: India
Continent: Asia
Region: South Asia
Persecution Rank:11 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Population in Country:46,000
Largest States:
Tripura (38,000)West Bengal (8,000)
Mizoram (300)Assam (20)
Meghalaya (20)
Total States on file:6
Submit Map:
Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Arakanese, Magh
People Name General: Arakanese
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 106013
Joshua Project People ID: 13207
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 46,000
Population all Countries: 2,984,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster: Burmese
People Name General: Arakanese
Ethnic Code: MSY50b
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
Submit Update:
Primary Language: Magahi (32,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): mag    Ethnologue Listing
Secondary Languages:
Bengali (10,000)Kok Borok (1,300)
Hindi (1,300)Kurux (700)
Nepali (200)Santhali (100)
Telugu (50)Garo (30)
Assamese (20)Boro (10)
Note: Only 10 largest secondary languages listed
Total Languages: 22
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religions:
Buddhism88.53 % 
Christianity0.57 %(Evangelical: Data not available)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism10.41 % 
Islam0.15 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.15 % 
Unknown0.18 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 1   Less than 2% Evangelical. Some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: 1890-2009
New Testament:
Complete Bible: None Reported
Possible Bible Sources: Forum of Bible Agencies
 World Bible Finder
 World Christian Resource Directory
 Gospel Go
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio RecordingsOnline New Testament (FCBH)
Audio RecordingsOral Bible stories in Magahi
Audio RecordingsStory of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project ...
Film / VideoGod's Story Video
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Magahi
Text / Printed MatterOneHope resources for children and youth
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Arakanese, Magh in India

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Burmese     South Asia    
      Arakanese India    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Arakanese, Magh in India          
      Religion Language  
      Buddhism     Magahi  
    All Religions                              

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