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Akha Human Rights - Akha University
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"We do not think that the teachings of Jesus would have ever allowed the travesty and cultural abuse that is being done to the Akha and so many other tribes in His name. On the contrary, Christianity, dominated by white culture, has used the teachings of Jesus to cover and justify the many things they do which are totally unacceptable. People make mistakes, but they should not claim that Jesus taught them to do that. Further, these mistakes are set up not as the mistakes of individuals, but as mission policy. Yet the missions turn the tables and say that individuals made mistakes. This is not the reality at all.
What is being done to the tribal peoples now by the missions, and over the last hundreds of years, has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus or 'thy neighbor as thy self' but rather is the big business of religion tied up with all the money that involves and the control and lording over the lives of the indigenous. The pastor replacing the traditional elders of the villages in the ultimate betrayal and cynicism. Hardly the Good News, Gospel or Redemption Story. Meanwhile the home economies and politics of these very same missionaries gobble up the resources of the indigenous. Moving the tribals, or moving them off oil land. Moving the tribals, or moving them out of the mountains so that their families, children can be exploited, so that their lands can be taken over for "resorts" where more than a few tribal girls can labor, and so that US Drug policy can have one more victory?
Given the choice, to pick Christianity or Jesus and His Teachings, we pick Jesus and His Teachings."
It is just that I stand in a rather odd position to all this from a perspective here in Thailand that would not cause someone to say what you are saying but would demand that they say it. (missions are failing)
I was born Christian, I have been forced to refine that to say that I believe very much in who Jesus is and what He taught and stood for while reserving very serious doubts about where the former, "being Christian" is headed and what it means.
I saw comment on the internet regarding Bush using a misquote from Doris Day. I checked out the site. It had a comment that many Doris Day related projects required the workers to take an oath of poverty.
It is a very sad day to say that in north Thailand today, among a huge mission establishment, that is the farthest thing from the reality here.
I have lived here now more than ten years and work very closely in the villages with the Akha hill tribe. I am not a missionary in the conventional sense nor did I come here to work with the Akha or be one. I came on business, was horrified at what I saw and began doing humanitarian work with the Akha ten years ago.
At first I was friends by church aquaintance with some missionaries here because I sought "fellowship", thought we were maybe related.
But increasingly I was dismayed at what I saw going on and this grew dramatically with time as I spent more time in the villages and learned the language of these people.
It basically boiled down to this, that the missions, with their considerable wealth and political clout did nearly nothing to oppose the gross human rights violations of civil servants and officers of the Thai government, lived safe comfortable lives and looted the Akha of their culture and children. This is no small thing. Every culture has flaws in it, but God did not appoint me to judge culture and then take it away from people. Furthermore, the reality is that much of what the Akha believe is very Christian Orthodox. I was appalled that no one caught this, that there was such an evangelical bias associating being Christian with being white and white culture, that the goal had to be to strip the Akha of who they were in order to respect that they did or would ever know anything about Jesus.
In a word, an incredible opportunity was lost. As well, the wealth and number of the missions grew exponentially. They all claimed traditional Akha people were history, yet many years later they still are not.
Nor is their culture. These people have valiantly held onto what is their truth.
They have a strict moral law, they believe in one God, they do not worship demons or spirits, and they have an incredible sense of human justice.
But I got no where with missionaries or the church.
Meanwhile there became no moral way to explain the mission awareness of the incredible impoverishment of the Akha at the hands of so many, and their vast wealth that could offset it, their power that could be used to rebuke the Thai government and champion internationally recognized safe guards.
Instead they increased the pressure on Akha families to give up their children and remove them from the villages to a score of missions where they were expected to convert and abandon their traditional ways which had all been carefully misunderstood and labeled as evil, rather than an incredible attribute to these people's courage.
The money spent on these boarding houses became obscene. Meanwhile the declining economics of the villages at the hands of human rights abuses went unchallenged when a fraction of the money being spent would have set all these villages on their feet and stopped the hemorhaging of life and children.
Making themselves out to be kind saviors of so many Akha children, they have looted the community and stood by living comfortable lives far from the mountain villages where the Akha so suffer hidden from the world's eye.
Hundreds of churches support this with donations.
While the United Church of Christ insists that reconcilliations in Canada must include the incredible damage that was done to native children by assuming that the church was better parents than natural parents, the missions in Thailand, a broad cross spectrum collection, continue the same modus operendi with defiance.
In scores of villages various denominations battle for the take over of one village and the trophy, capitulation of elders and culture, removal of all signs of the culture, and the ultimate hood ornament, a church in the village, usually at the most culturally insulting place, either village center or top of the village, as if to lift all things dear and central to being Akha like a scalp on a pole.
Jesus and being Akha have become polarized by years of rhetoric as to how evil being Akha is, while traditional Akha have come to understand that becoming Christian means to abandon all, to stop being Akha and to destroy the natural immune system of the village, a very different operation than an evangelical residential community.
The missions are not without passports, human rights, or ATM and Credit cards. On the contrary, they flout their wealth in ever greater and greater mission central expenditures.
That may be why so many Akha feel pawns as they see the mortality rates of their people and culture continue to climb while the wealth of the missions grows exponentially, while related chinese take more and more of their land as the Chinese missionaries supported from America build more and more churches, and while there is a transfer of their children from the villages to the missions, the young women being targeted most as their offspring will then "be christian" and the young men are left to cope with the ashes, the despair, and drugs.
So how does one tell the Akha after all this that Jesus is about redemption. To the Akha Jesus means you have to stop being Akha. This is the challenge, if there is a redemption story to tell the Akha, the Christians have sure betrayed the message.
Copyright 1991 - 2006 The Akha Heritage Foundation