The Arakanese of India
India is a complex mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and social groupings. Because of this diversity, it is very difficult to adequately describe any single people group. Ranking second only to China among the world's most populous countries, India has a population of over 930,00,000. The overall population density is about 762 people per square mile.
India may be divided into four main regions: the Himalayas, the northern river-plains region, the Deccan Plateau, and the Eastern and Western Ghat Mountains. Because of its numerous geographical features, climatic conditions are very diverse on both seasonal and regional basis, ranging from tropical to temperate extremes.
The 20,400 Arakanese, who are part of this complex cultural milieu, are located mostly in the state of Tripura. The majority of Arakanese live in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Their language, Mog, is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
What are their lives like?
Almost three-fourths of India's population lives in rural areas and are engaged in some form of agricultural activity. Many are farmers who barely grow enough to survive. Their farms are extremely small and are often very fragmented. The raising of livestock, particularly horned cattle, buffalo, horses, and mules, is a central feature of the agricultural economy. Because of Hindu influence, however, these animals are used almost exclusively as beasts of burden rather than sources of meat.
Indian culture is primarily Hindu-oriented. Many Hindu institutions, including the rigid caste (social class) system, have wide-ranging effects on secular Indian society. The word "caste" basically means breed, race, or kind. Indian society is divided into hierarchical castes that are usually endogamous (marriage only within the caste). Castes may be defined by occupation or by kinship and lineage, although there are some exceptions. Nevertheless, caste is so fundamental to the social organization of India that it prevails in all parts, except among some of the tribal populations.
Essentially all Buddhist groups in India today are groups who migrated from neighboring Buddhist countries (through choice or to avoid conflict) or groups who live along the borders touching those countries. The basic lifestyle of Buddhist groups in India is not too different from the lifestyle of Hindus. The differences are only found in their religious practices. Little is known about the specific lifestyle and culture of the Arakanese in India. Further research is needed to clearly identify their needs and to develop strategies to reach them with the Gospel.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of Arakanese are Theravada Buddhists. Buddhism teaches that right thinking, ritual sacrifices, and self-denial will enable the soul to reach nirvana (a state of eternal bliss) after death. They daily live in fear of their gods and constantly strive to appease them with religious chants, rituals, and sacrifices. Like Hindus, Buddhists believe that existence is a continuing cycle of death and rebirth (reincarnation). As long as a person remains within the cycle of death and rebirth, he can never be completely free from pain and suffering. The cycle can only be broken by achieving nirvana, and only those who follow the Buddhist principles of the "middle way" and the "noble eight-fold path" can achieve that state.
Theravada means "Way of the Elders." Theravada Buddhism—also referred to by some as Hinayana—emphasizes Buddha as a historical figure, the virtues of the religious life, and the authority of the Tripitika ("three baskets"). The Tripitika refers to self-discipline, preaching, and discussing doctrine. These followers believe that the ideal Buddhist is a kind of saint called an arhat.
What are their needs?
The Arakanese have portions of the Bible available in their own language, and there are two missions agencies currently targeting them. Intercession and increased missions efforts are still needed. Also, the small number of believers need discipleship materials to encourage and strengthen them in their Christian walk.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities that have kept the Arakanese bound for many generations.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Arakanese.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Arakanese.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Mog language.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the small number of Arakanese believers through adequate discipleship.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Arakanese church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Arakanese
- Country: India
- Their language: Mog
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 12
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 4,100 (21%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 16,300 (79%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 163
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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