Introduction / History
The Burmese, also called the Bama, are the dominant people group in Myanmar, formerly called Burma. Because of government abuses, many people have had to leave Myanmar for other countries like Canada. People commonly mistake all people from Myanmar as being Burmese, when in fact, a large percentage of those leaving that country for the West are part of ethnic minorities, many of which have a Christian background. For our purposes, we will try to focus on the Burmese Buddhist population in Canada.
Where are they located?
Most Burmese live in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and other major cities.
What are their lives like?
Commonly Burmese came to Canada from rural places where there was no running water or electricity. There is a big adjustment to living in modern cities, and finding jobs.
The Burmese in Canada are actively trying to get the Canadian government to do something about the human rights abuses in Myanmar.
What are their beliefs?
The Burmese are predominantly Buddhists. The traditional goal in Buddhism is to seek the middle path to nirvana, or ultimate peace.
The Burmese have mixed these Buddhist beliefs with their own animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits). Their animistic beliefs center around inherently evil spirits called nats. The Burmese spend their lives trying to appease the nats so that they will be protected from any other evil spirits that may seek to harm them. Burmese homes often have altars for the spirits, as well as a statue of Buddha.
The Burmese, like other Buddhists, believe that death is not a threat to one who has done good deeds. Instead, death is simply a "passing" from one life to another. They believe that "rebirth" is determined by the accumulated good or bad deeds done in the previous live. Therefore, those who have earned less merit are reborn as demons, ghosts, animals, or inhabitants of hell.
What are their needs?
People need to teach the Burmese language and job skills that will help them adjust to life in Canada.
* Pray that Christians will teach Burmese refugees the language and job skills they need.
* Pray for the Burmese Buddhists to be reached with the gospel of Christ. This can be done by ethnic minorities from Myanmar or by Canadian nationals.
* Pray for a church planting movement among the Burmese Buddhists in Canada that will affect those in Myanmar.