Forced to convert: how American missionaries really treat indigenous Akha children

Forced to convert: how American missionaries really treat indigenous Akha children

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April 23, 2013

Indigenous Akha children have been swept off to American missionaries who promise them food, healthcare, and education, however a recent evaluation of the Akha children suggests it comes with a price. An expert in the Akha people shares with the Voice of Russia what is really going on in American missionaries, when nobody is looking.

Tiny villages scattered across Thailand, is where the native people, known as the Akhas live. With over 20 thousand Akhas currently living in Thailand alone, their lifestyle has been so devastating for outsiders to watch, that religious fanatics started building missionaries.

American missionaries have made it their goal to help guide Akha children toward a better life by offering free housing, scholarships, Christian activities, and weekend religious schools. Though, their offers are all or nothing –forcing the Akha children enlisted in the program to give in to the Christian faith, claims Akha Life University (ALU).

While religious missionaries from America commonly pledge their only reason for being in Northern Thailand, where many Akhas call home, is to help them – a recent evaluation from ALU suggests differently.

“Children have no independent choice on religious rights or beliefs and they are influenced by daily life activities in the dormitory hostel. Every Sunday they are forced to attend church service and Sunday school learning, which means the children have no authority to refuse, for the time they live in the hostels,” explained Kraisit for ALU.

Kraisit’s organization did not only look into Thailand, coverage spanned from Northern Thailand to Burma, Laos and even to the South of China. They spent time in various spots, finding the same reoccurring pattern.

Sadly, the findings show that cultural assimilation is actively being practiced. Cultural heritage is slowly being forgotten, and as time passes the next generation may not even know about their true Akha heritage.

Kraisit seems very concerned about the intense influence missionaries from America are having on Akha children. What’s even more shocking is that the Akha children do not know about where they came from –as missionaries advocate the word of their god, making them lose a sense of their own religion.

“The Akha children could not identify their own selves. This can lead to the disappearance of proud ancient tradition and culture, “said Kraisit to the Voice of Russia.

So why are missionaries forcing Akha children to convert to Christianity? From a religious perspective, the original way Akhas praise a higher power doesn’t seem demonic. According to Kraisit, who has been working with Akha related issues for 23 years, their religion is focused on ancient wisdom and they strive to strike a balance between humans and nature.

Complex from many angles, the Akhas of this generation and the next face multiple challenges in the coming years. Kraisit said that religious missionary organizations should stop looking down on their Akha dignity, ancestor traditional wisdom and knowledge. Equally needed are more concerned citizens on this dilemma and funds to support the Akha’s endangered culture.

This article was originally published at The Voice of Russia.

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