Introduction / History The Muong are one of the largest ethnic minorities in the Indochina region, as well as the second largest ethnic group in Vietnam. They inhabit the mountainous slopes of north central Vietnam, from the lower reaches of the Da River to the upper reaches of the Ma River. The Muong speak a Mon-Khmer language that is closely related to Vietnamese.
Prior to the Chinese conquest of the Red River delta region, the Vietnamese and the Muong formed a fairly unified group. While the forefathers of the Viet peoples migrated down the plains and became influenced by the Chinese, the Muong's ancestors stayed in the mountains, preserving their culture. Thus, the two groups developed independently. The Muong decisively rejected the cultural influence of the Chinese during their occupation of northern Vietnam. Since 1954, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has initiated policies to assimilate the Muong into the mainstream structure of the nation.
What are their lives like? The Muong have an extraordinarily unified culture. One can pass through large areas of Muong territory without ever passing through the territory of another ethnic group. There is also a strong feeling of mutual aid within the Muong villages. Villagers willingly help one another in local projects, and depend on each other for mutual support and help during times of trouble.
Farming is the foundation of the Muong economy, although gathering, fishing, hunting, raising livestock, and making handicrafts have also become very important. The farmers raise wet rice on terraced land, watered by small brooks. Dry rice is also grown by using the "slash and burn" method of cultivation. Since productivity is low, the Muong also gather cinnamon and wood for trade. Many of their towns have become trading centers.
Muong villages generally consist of 10 to 50 households. They are usually situated on plateaus, or near water at higher altitudes (over 2,600 feet). Most of the Muong do not live near any major lines of communication. They live in houses that are raised about six feet off the ground on wooden stilts. They are large, rectangular dwellings divided into separate rooms by shoulder-high bamboo screens. A prominent feature in each home is the altar, which is built in honor of their ancestors. Each home has a verandah at its entrance. There, a bucket of water is kept for washing their feet before entering the home.
Until the revolution in 1945, Muong social organization was aristocratic, and a headman had absolute authority in his jurisdiction. Since the revolution, the Muong 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 Muong 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. Today, peasants pay between seven and ten percent of their produce to the state.
What are their beliefs? The Muong practice their traditional ethnic religion, worshiping ancestral spirits and other supernatural deities. They are primarily animists, which means that they believe that non-living objects have spirits. They also deify local heroes who have died. However, with the introduction of modern medicine, adherence to many folk beliefs has declined.
What are their needs? More men than women were killed in the Vietnamese War, creating a skewed sex ratio among the Muong. Today, mostly widows and orphans remain. The women are now required to perform duties that once belonged to the men.
The Muong need emotional healing from horrors of war. This will only come when they meet Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Christian laborers, additional evangelistic tools, and intercession for the Muong are all desperately needed.
Prayer Points Pray that God will grant favor to any missions agencies currently focusing on the Muong.
Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint the Gospel message as it goes forth via radio among the Muong.
Pray that God will give the Muong believers opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
Ask God to send Christian humanitarian aid workers to Vietnam to minister to the physical needs of these war-torn people.
Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Muong.