Introduction / History The Mon of Myanmar generally live in the region southeast of Yangoon and in Mon and Kayin States along the coast. The Mon migrated from the northern territories into what is now known as Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), and established the first great civilization in that region. They pioneered wet rice farming, introduced the nationals to Buddhism, and gave them their alphabet. Between the fifth and eighth centuries, their kingdom was at its peak. However, in the centuries that followed, they were at constant war with the Burmese.
The Mon were finally defeated by the Burmese in 1757, and the time of their political independence ended. Today, most of the Mon are descendants of the fugitives who fled from the Burmese.
What are their lives like? The Mon have lived in village settlements from the last three or four hundred years. Their houses are similar to Thai homes, except that they are always situated east and west. They are rectangular, wood-framed houses raised above ground on poles. The walls and floors are made of woven bamboo mats, and the roofs are made of thatch. The wealthier Mon may live in homes with plank walls and floors. There is a verandah in front and a kitchen at the back of the house. A monastery is located in each village.
Most of the Mon are peasant farmers, although a few are merchants and craftsmen. The farmers generally raise fruits or vegetables. Irrigated rice is their principal crop, and it is grown for both consumption and trade. The wet rice farmers cultivate their fields with plows drawn by buffalo or oxen. Vegetables, sugar cane, and pineapples are grown in home gardens. Supplementary crafts for the men include carpentry and brick making; while the women engage in pottery, weaving, and basket-making. Some of the men have full-time jobs as blacksmiths.
Mon families are not particularly patrilineal (male-dominated), except when dealing with the "house spirit." This deity is located in the home of the eldest living male of a lineage. The spirit's clothing and gear hang in a basket on the southeastern post of the house.
The Mon do not have formal weddings. Instead, when a boy and girl decide to marry, the boy's friends tell the girl's parents. The groom is allowed to move in with the bride and her family for up to three years. The couple then establishes their own separate household.
Physically, the Mon are taller and stronger than the Thai. Today, most dress like the Thai.
What are their beliefs? Religion is very important to the Mon. A majority are ethnic religionists, practicing a mixture of spirit worship and Buddhism. The others are Theravada Buddhists. Those who are traditional animists believe that good and evil spirits inhabit non-living objects. Their beliefs have been partly influenced by Hinduism, where spirits known as tewatao are associated with trees and fields. Other spirits, such as ancestral spirits, spirits that cause illness, and spirits that have magical influence, are called kalok.
Buddhist monks act as mediators between villagers and the spirits. Other practitioners include shamans (priests or priestesses), doctors, astrologers, and witches. Witches often cause illnesses or spirit possession. The Buddhists believe that a sick person has an insufficient accumulation of merit, so offerings are made to the Buddha images on his behalf. To alleviate the illness, shamans (mostly women) put on spirit dances, at which time they usually become possessed by evil spirits. The doctor then seeks to exorcise the spirits by reciting chants.
What are their needs? Few of the Mon have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Additional Christian laborers and evangelistic materials are needed to reach these people with the Light of the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Myanmar (Burma) to minister to the Mon.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Mon.
* Pray that God will give Mon believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth strong and growing Mon Christian fellowships for the glory of His name!