Introduction / History The Khao inhabit the subtropical hills of northwestern Vietnam near the Ma River. Their ancestors, the Khmu, were the original inhabitants of northern Laos, prior to the migrations of Tai-speaking peoples. Over the past two centuries, the Khao have expanded into Thailand, China, and Vietnam.
In the 1950s, communist rebels emerged in North Vietnam and military regimes were formed, leading to massive bloodshed. The Communist Republic of North Vietnam overtook South Vietnam in 1975. North Vietnam went through a period of intense reconstruction of industry, yet there continues to be a deterioration in the quality of the nation's industrial output.
Some say that the Khao and an ethnic group called the Xa Khao may be one and the same. The name Xa Khao means "savages with horns," and probably refers to their style of dress.
What are their lives like? Wet-rice agriculture dominates the Khao economy, with rice being raised as both a food staple and a cash crop. The Khao farmers use wooden equipment drawn by buffalo to farm their rice fields. Some also use the "slash and burn" method of cultivation on the hills surrounding their villages. Although there are some irrigation facilities in this region, the Khao are primarily dependent on rainfall to water their crops.
In addition to being farmers, the Khao are also fishermen, since fish is their main source of protein. The basic Khao diet consists of plain white rice dressed with plenty of vegetables, meat, fish, spices, and sauces.
Khao society is based on the family unit. Their families are very traditional, closely adhering to the customs of their forefathers. Unlike many other people groups in this part of the world, the Khao do not recognize strict lineages or clans. Since they are considered a lower class by most other groups in the area, they freely intermarry with higher ranking ethnic groups.
The Khao live in villages that may either be widely dispersed or clustered tightly together. Generally, their farmlands are located right beside their homes. Most Khao live in houses that are raised about six feet off the ground on wooden stilts. They are large, rectangular dwellings divided into separate rooms. A prominent feature in each home is the altar, which is built in honor of their ancestors. Underneath the house, the family's pigs, fowl, and goats roam about freely.
Until the revolution in 1945, Khao social organization was aristocratic, and a headman had absolute authority in his jurisdiction. Since then, the Khao community has undergone enormous changes. Their nation has been transformed from a feudalistic society into a socialistic society. Every area of life and level of society has been affected. For example, in 1945, the authority of the headman was abolished. The once independent Khao farmers now work on "collective (community) farms," sharing equally in production. The administration of the cooperative is carried out by a committee elected by the people's council.
Since 1945, small-scale industrialization has led to the entry of an agricultural peasant class into the Vietnamese working class. However, socialist organization has also brought medical schools and hospitals to the region. These have helped the Khao to gain control over diseases such as smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, and malaria.
What are their beliefs? Most of the Khao still practice their traditional ethnic religion, which focuses on ancestor worship (praying to the dead for help and guidance). The most important spirits include territorial deities and ancestral spirits. Sadly, their lives are dictated by what they believe is happening in the spirit realm.
What are their needs? The Khao have been greatly affected by the fighting and bloodshed of their past. They need to experience emotional healing from horrors of war. Christian laborers, evangelistic tools, and intercession are all needed to reach the Khao with the Gospel.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to send forth laborers into Vietnam to share the Gospel with the Khao.
Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Vietnam through worship and intercession.
Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the Khao believers through adequate discipleship.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Khao church for the glory of His name! * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people. * Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.