Burma-Chin Cultural Profile

Background

  • The Chin are an ethnic group in Burma (Myanmar) who are persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons. Many Chin have fled to refugee camps in Malaysia, Thailand and India.
  • Of the many sub-groups of Chin, the largest group that is re-settling in the United States is the Hakha Chin.
  • Northern Chin State was colonized by the British in 1895, and was then annexed into Burma, which was also a British colony.
  • Burma gained independence from the British in 1948, at which point the Chin attempted to modernize and create a state with a democratically elected parliament, which was soon taken over by a military, socialist government.
  • The Chin National Front, a group advocating democratic government, was formed in 1988. Punishment for being a member of this group is 10-15 years in prison, depending on the size of bribe that the family can afford.

Language, Religion, Traditional Practices

  • The Chin are made up of many different ethnic groups, who speak 20 to 25 languages that are not mutually intelligible, but can be divided into four groups based on linguistic similarity.
  • Corn and rice cultivation and farming are a large part of life for the Chin, and corn and rice are the main staples of their diet.
  • Every Chin household has a garden for growing vegetables. Only those in high government positions need not grow their own.
  • Most Chin work in the agricultural sector.
  • The husband is the head of the household.
  • Sons and daughters are equally valued, but only sons may inherit property.
  • Support of/from clan members is expected.
  • Missionaries arrived in Chin State in 1899, which accounts for the large number of protestant Chin Burmese, although some are Roman Catholic.
  • Some non-Christian Chin Burmese practice animism.
  • In urban areas, traditional medicine is virtually nonexistent, although home-remedies are often used inmore rural areas.

Adjusting to America

  • The Chin have varying levels of education; Chin living in rural areas having typically have the least amount. There is little opportunity of education for youth at the refugee camps in Malaysia.
  •  Most Chin are familiar with the Roman alphabet, which will aid them in learning English.
  • Some forms of body language that differ from American body language: o Eye contact can be seen as an act of challenge by the Chin. o Crossing the arms in front of the body is thought to be polite behavior, and should not be read as a sign of hostility.