The Santal of India
The Khamti Shan settled along the Chinwin River in northwestern Myanmar (Burma) in the twelfth century. They formed three small Khamti Long Thai States and developed a highly advanced civilization. Those who escaped enslavement by the Burmese, settled in their present location in the fertile triangle of northern Myanmar, between the Mali and Nmai Rivers. Although related to other Shan peoples, they are a distinct people group with some similarities to the Northern Shan. Many are bilingual in Burmese as well as their own Khamti language, which is written with a distinctive script called Lik-Tai.
The country of Myanmar, or Burma, has a long history of coups, wars, and rebellions. Currently, the Burmese military maintains control over the various ethnic groups, who wish to have equal opportunity and position in government and commerce.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Agriculture is the driving force in the Shan economy. Rice is the major subsistence and cash crop. Traditionally, rice is grown in irrigated fields, but farmers sometimes resort to "slash and burn" cultivation to grow hill rice. Other crops include tea, soybeans, peanuts, coffee, and cotton. People living near larger villages or towns grow vegetables to sell in the market. Because farming is not mechanized, farmers raise cattle and buffalo to draw their heavy wooden plows.
Shan farmers live in villages of ten to five hundred or more households clustered along roads, or on riverbanks. Unlike many ethnic peoples, the Shan do not have clans or appear to attach importance to family lines.
Marriages, which are monogamous, are based on the couple's mutual consent. Newlyweds usually live with the bride's parents for the first two or three years, or until they can set up their own home. Within the community, threat of exposure or the loss of reputation are important means of maintaining order.
The Shan social culture is built on a hierarchy based on age, gender, and wealth. The Myanmar constitution dictates the political organization—an unbroken line of administrative authority from the Prime Minister to the elected village headman. In the national census, villages are counted as territorial units and this determines their taxes. For the common citizen, the government is one of five traditional enemies along with fire, famine, flood, and plague.
The Khamti Shan are also wholesalers who move trade goods through northwestern Thailand and eastern Myanmar. As a result of improved transportation, women have become retailers of domestic goods sold in village markets instead of individually trading with one another. The people are good silversmiths, skilled in making beautiful buttons and daggers. They also market bamboo products and paper.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Buddhism was introduced into Myanmar in the fifth century and the vast majority of the Shan are Buddhists. The Buddhist's goal is to seek the middle path to nirvana, or ultimate peace. The Shan's view of the world centers on the idea of "power protection," a belief that the "power" will protect people from the consequences of their actions. Buddha and Buddhist monks are the most powerful beings, followed by spirits of the village, spirits associated with fields, households, and the forest. Rebirth is determined by accumulated merits and demerits earned in previous lives, so everyone eventually has the potential of being a Buddha. For the Buddhist, death is not a threat if one has done good deeds; it is simply passing from one life to another.
What Are Their Needs?
The very tiny number of Khamti Shan Christians need all the help they can get. No missions agencies are currently working among the Khamti Shan and the Bible is not yet available to them in their own language. Neither the Jesus film nor Christian radio broadcasts are available in Khamti. They desperately need missionaries and a full Bible translation. For those who are bilingual, teachers who can help them to read the Burmese script would be helpful.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Khamti Shan Christians.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Khamti language.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Khamti language.
- Take authority over the principalities and powers that are keeping the Shan bound in spiritual darkness.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Khamti Shan towards Christians so they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Khamti Shan church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Santal
- Country: India
- Their language: Santar (Karmali)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1%
- Church members: 52,074
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 15
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 2,784,700 (54%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 2,371,200 (46%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 8
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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