Christianity in Myanmar
Introduction
  • Christianity first reached Myanmar in 1500, but evangelization properly began in 1722 when the Roman Catholics entrusted the region to the Barnabites. However spreading the gospel turned out to be difficult since most Burmese were already devoted Buddhists.
  • In 1548 St. Francis Xavier petitioned Father Rodriguez for missionaries to go to Pegu. 1722, Vatican sent Father Sigismond de Calchi a Barnabite, and Father Vittoni, to Burma.
  • 1613, A Portuguese called Debrito settled in Burma. Later defeated by Burmese King and his followers [Mostly Roman Catholic] were relocated at central of Burma. Many Roman Catholic [Portuguese descanted] are still living at villages in central of Myanmar.
  • Official Christian Mission arrived Syrian [now Thanlwin] in 1689 from Paris. After 1721, many Roman Catholic missionary schools appeared. In 1807, British Baptist Mission arrived and protestant Christian Churches settled in Myanmar.. 
  • Dr Mark (Saya Hmat 1832-1915) Society for the Propagation of the Gospel arrived Myanmar in 1859 for missionary school @ Moulmein. He served Burmese Kings , Min Don  and ThiPaw.  School of Lanmadaw No.1 [formerly St. John] was established by Saya Hmat. His charisma made him famous among Burmese royal family and British government as well as in public.
  • In the early 19th century the American Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), laid the foundations of the Protestant church in Myanmar which were soon followed by France and Italy. They were more successful in converting the minority ethnic groups rather than mainstream Burmese society. Since then Christianity has been deeply rooted in Myanmar and has grow stronger during tribulation. Judson translated Bible from Hebrew to Burmese. He wrote many Burmese book and Judson Dictionary was completed by E.A Steven.
  • Pentecostal missionaries reached Myanmar in the late 1910s in which whole tribes believed in the Lord and gave up idol worshipping. The Charismatic movement still plays a vital role in Myanmar today.
  • The First and Second World War brought upheaval which affected both the people and the missionaries.
  • In 1965, a coup made by Ne Win formed a Communist government so Catholic mission schools and hospitals were nationalized. Foreign missionaries were expelled and only a few were allowed to return since that time - and so began a period of isolation for Myanmar and the local Christians.
  • In 1961 Buddhism was declared the official religion and treason was charged to anyone who converted to another religion and by 1966 all missionaries were expelled from the country.
  • Despite isolation and financial needs, the Burmese church had become a strong missionary body. Baptists, Assemblies of God, Methodists and Anglicans form the strongest denominations in the country today.
  • Many Burmese Christians are well educated and therefore are in respected positions all over the country. Most of them are from the minority ethnic groups such as Karen, Lisu, Kachin, Lahu. Very few of the 35,000,000 Burmese are believers (only 5% of total population). Ethnic and denominational ties are very strong.
  • Myanmar Baptist Convention is an association of Baptist churches which operates the Myanmar Institute of Theology, founded in 1927.
  • The Bible Ministry in Myanmar was started in 1889. The revision of the first Burmese Bible as well as the new translation in other languages was carried out to meet the needs of the growing Christian population. National Bible Society was formed in 1964, known as the Bible Society of Myanmar (BSM). The United Bible Society has 137 members, of which one is the Bible Society of Myanmar.
  • Protestants in Myanmar are mostly Baptist and make up around 3% of a population of 43 millions, numbering over 1.29 millions people overall. Many Baptist churches in the country are affiliated to the Myanmar Baptist Convention. In Myanmar, the Assemblies of God of Myanmar is the largest Pentecostal church. However, there have been several allegations of persecution of Christians  in the country, which is seen as wider evidence of state repression
  • Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar  CBCM, Burmese Catholic communities does not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican but  communicate to Vatican through the Bangkok office. Estimated ~1% of Myanmar is Catholic population.

    Date: 17-Dec-2005
    Ref:

    1. Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia - Myanmar Christian

    2.  Catholic Encyclopedia

    3. Burmese Encyclopedia Vol 10 p.422  Saya Hmat, Vol 2 p.279  Christianity, Vol 5 p.271 Debrito
    5. To the Golden Shore The Life of Adoniram
    6. Bible Society of Myanmar (BSM)