Introduction / History
As one of the most ancient ethnic groups in Southeast Asia, the Eastern Cham people have a very deep and interesting history.
The Eastern Cham people are a Malayo-Polynesian ethnic group, one branch of the Cham minority group in Vietnam. The Eastern Cham people have an estimated population of approximately 80,000.
As a small minority group now overrun with poverty and persecution, one must remember that the Eastern Cham people's kingdom once reigned in Southeast Asia. "The ancient Cham were known for their seafaring skills, agricultural inventiveness, and construction of temples and religious monuments. The culture of the Cham in more recent periods has had little of the flavor of its ancient progenitor, relative poverty having replaced the grandeur of its ancient past" (World Culture Encyclopedia).
Where are they located?
The Eastern Cham live in the provinces along the coastline of southern Vietnam, and their villages are spread out in the coastal and Mekong Delta provinces, specifically the Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, and Dong Nai provinces. Some Eastern Cham live in and around Ho Chi Minh City as well. The Cham are descendents from what was known as the Champa kingdom, which was located in Vietnam, areas of Cambodia, and southern Laos.
What are their lives like?
They are mainly agricultural, producing rice, corn, and cotton. The Eastern Cham also trade fish, shrimp, and other nautical goods, as well as weavings and other artistic products. Many of the Eastern Cham celebrate religious holidays surrounding their long-standing history. The celebrations are usually held at their historic temples, such as the Po Klong Garai Towers in Phan Rang, the Thap Ba Po Nagar Towers in Nha Trang, or the Duong Long Towers, located in Binh Dinh.
What are their beliefs?
The lack of Christianity and the ability to evangelize among the Eastern Cham people is mostly due to their practice of different religions. The Joshua Project reports that the primary religion among the Cham is Islam, however, a good percentage of the Eastern Cham people practice Hinduism or some form of it. Many follow Brahmanism, a sect of Hinduism. Brahmanism is practiced in the home, in temples, and at sacred festivals. The Eastern Cham are also highly influenced by traditional ancestor worship and animism. Their religious beliefs contribute to their history and identity as a people group. This makes it difficult for Cham individuals to embrace Christianity, as doing so would result in expulsion from the community.
What are their needs?
The Eastern Cham people have many economic and political needs. They are still considered to be a minority in Vietnam and are looked down upon. Because of this discrimination, the Eastern Cham people have a very low self-esteem and self-worth as individuals and as a people group. Yet, they have pride in their heritage, as they vehemently point out to people who visit their villages that they are Eastern Cham, not Vietnamese.
Though the average per-capita income of ethnic people in Vietnam has risen by nearly one-third since 2006, the Eastern Cham mostly still live in poverty. Their poverty is predominantly due to the fact that they are mostly dependent on agriculture, fishing, and artistic goods. The Cham need more education and training on things such as farming techniques (irrigation, etc.) and the environment (erosion, deforestation, water quality), which could become major concerns.
Because of their isolation in rural villages, many of the Eastern Cham, are restricted in their ability to influence the nature of policies, programs, and project interventions designed to service their needs. The limited access to social services means they have very poor standards of living and quality of life.
There are also needs among the Eastern Cham for better education and healthcare. Again, their rural locations limit their access to schools and medical facilities. This lack of healthcare adds to the prevalence of diseases. The lack of education adds to the decrease in teachers, quality of education, and therefore, more marginalization.
* Prayer is needed for the local government authorities who often discriminate those Eastern Cham who proclaim their Christianity.
* Pray for the Eastern Cham to be open to hearing the gospel and let go of their traditions that hold them to idol worship, animism, and other religions.
* Pray for the healthcare and education needs among the Eastern Cham people.
* Pray for spiritual victory in territories in the Eastern Cham regions of Vietnam. The Eastern Cham are known to dedicate their babies to the spirits at the local temples.
* Pray for the ethnic and cultural animosity in Vietnam to be broken down. Especially pray for the Vietnamese Christians to see their opportunity to evangelize to the Eastern Cham.
* Pray for God to raise up Cham Christian leaders. May the Lord to provide proper training and church partnerships so that churches can be planted in the villages.
Text source: Ellen Dawson