ELL: Missions: Something constructive could be done.

Matthew McDaniel akha at loxinfo.co.th
Tue Sep 21 16:25:26 UTC 1999

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Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999 23:25:26 +0700
From: Matthew McDaniel <akha at loxinfo.co.th>
Organization: The Akha Heritage Foundation
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		Subject: ELL: Missions: Something constructive could be done.
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		In response to Trond:

		And I am not attempting to single out anyone on this list,
		even the SIL people
		who are on it, they probably are in something just a little
		bigger than they
		are, but rather their orgs.

		Here in this place the missionaries are actively engaged daily
		villages in
		forceful proselytizing that is immediately and permanently
		traditional culture by all kinds of means of deception and
		ruse and racial

		American Baptists work with the Chinese Baptists and OMF.  SIL
		has helped
		these orgs. These orgs are in the hills, I pass their trucks
		times a

		This list is about things which effect the endangerement of
		Missions and missionaries may have been here for a while, but
		they are
		not so
		big and bad that they have a waiver for getting shoved.

		What I would like to see is more people take action to
		pressure missions and
		missionaries about their double activities and the effect they
		have on
		language and culture that they use the language to talk about.

		People on this list will have an opinion, they will decide
		wether what the
		missions have often done is wrong or not and wether they are
		still doing it.
		The information can be found.

		But I would not dis this and say that it is not a relevant
		subject.  A very
		uncomfortable one yes.

		At any rate one will have to make a call wether the missions
		can be shrugged
		off or not.  I know many deal intelligent friends who when it
		comes to this
		will depart all other lines of reason, and their own racial
		makeup and
		social/religious concerns cause them to exhibit the most
		unusual of behavior,
		comparing all kinds of other evils as reason to dismiss all
		these cases
		in a
		form of inconsistency that is odd, but it is very common, and
		I try to point
		it out to them where possible, the contridiction in their
		stance on justice
		for a people.

		But people have an easy time brushing off what is very
		similar, near and dear
		to their own heart.  Tell a baptist what the baptist mission
		does, and
		it can
		be as if you had smote him and I would not call the reaction
		but rather the behavior a cat has when it is trying to bury
		something most
		unpleasant.  I have had this conversation with many Christian
		friends of my
		own, and I grew up in churches that supported Wycliffe and
		hadn't a clue what
		missions in general were doing to "civilize" these tribal
		peoples while our
		own civil society was busy tweaking itself and the rest of the
		world to the
		nth degree.

		For instance, the cliche banner cry of missionaries here is to
		stop opium
		smoking among the Akha, that they don't work, that is why they
		are poor, and
		because of the opium they sell their daughters.

		This could hardly be further from the truth to categorize a
		whole people
		already under assault in such a manner.

But most importantly, may I ask which civilizations put the opium here.  The
same damn ones sending the missionaies!

So it is no small matter, it is a major issue here in the mountains, and it
certainly deserves discussion on this list of a solution if there can be some
agreement that there is a problem.

I am sure there are many people who could be found regarding experiences with
New Tribes Missions and then there would be examples.

My mother reads the paper, she doesn't care what missionaries do or what
endangered languages are in need of.

People on this list on the other hand should not shirk this subject.

Honesty would be to ask, just what kind of a problem are missionaries for
endangered languages and the cultures that birth and couch them.

Then if there is sufficient cause to suggest there is a problem, which I can't
imagine could be avoided, then some kind of academic study of the problem
could be addressed.  People would be studying their own.  Without partiality.

Now if a mission builds a hospital does that nix the fact that many of the
mission workers are wiping out the culture in the villages?  I think
not, it
does not give permission, they do not cancel.

But there is certainly room for scholarly research for this, I think
that with
serious thought even a conference, a symposium, could be called.  If you cross
posted it to all the Indian groups in the US, scarred much by missions, south
american, mexico, central american, I would think you would have some good
attendance and also show that the list doesn't maintain a collection of
subjects that it is afraid to dig into.

I myself can do what I can by email.  I have scores of villages that I must
patrol in rugged mountains, one man against scores of mission orgs that are
steadily wiping out traditional Akha culture, more than 50% of the villages
now, with a no holds barred campaign to "convert them all to Jesus".  And
these orgs get linguistic back up help from people like SIL.

I saw on a sociology list that one Professor in California had a
conference on
the political economy of missions, certainly the same could be widely
publicized on the behalf of indidgenous peoples to give them a voice of their
view of mission treatment, the creation of elites and so forth, mission
schools and on and on and certainly that would include how it effects their
language which would seem to be central.

Are the people on this list afraid of this?

What if you had a whole lot of native people who testified how they were
forbidden and punished by the mission people for speaking their own language.

In my dealings with the Jesus Film people they refused to answer my questions
as to why they did not answer my emails requesting them not to use the
improper translation of the Akha New Testament in the case of the word for
Pharisees (not used in a positive context with their role in the crucifixion)
as the same word as the Akha word for Peeh Mah, the man who is the cultural
leader, village doctor, poet of the recitals of huge portions of language
based history of the Akha.  How can you slam this Akha leader position
in this
way and say you are for the culture or the language, he is the chief one
responsible for the oral handing down of the language in its accuracy.

So the children think their village leader for all the poetry is the one who
killed Jesus?

Why would you do this, especially when someone asked you not to, and
especially when it is also a wrong translation?

Or why couldn't you at least say why you would continue to do so?  Is there
just a little denial in a case like that?

On the other hand, I brought up the case of one missionary who
sterilized a
large number of Akha women, who left in the worse kind of way in many cases.
Yet this same missionary posed as a linguist.  When do we seperate linguistic
rights from human rights, and why should this list be so carefully protective
when it would appear that there is something to protect that is just a little
close to home.

Why are there not more native peoples on this list?

In my situation I am still a long way off from getting my writers onto this
list.  There is money, computers, a building, a phone line and just a
lot of
bloody coordinating technically and about the issues, but I hope to get there
one day, I am one person.  We also have scores of Akha books we can not afford
to print.  There are enormous numbers of elderly people and elders to be
interviewed before they die for what they know, but not many are doing
it, it
requires money, and meanwhile the missions have no shortage for what
they do
it would seem.

I think that missions do endanger language, they may also help in cases.
 the two must be seperated and the willingness to help does not give one the
 right to lightly dismiss the errors that have such a serious effect on what
 many people are trying to protect.

 When there are specific cases of many tribes being effected in this way, we
 can not generalize that mission do much good work.

 In my dealings with the missions here I ask them why can't they just talk
 about Jesus without shaming and pushing people's culture.  They feel
 they have
 the right and divine order to do more.  They can not answer me other
 than that
 in most cases.  I have very rarely had a missionary ask me how I viewed what
 they were doing and why.  But it has always left them very puzzled.  And
 that is only a first step.

 I hope that people will admit to the fact that missionaries do have a
 effect on people who mostly didn't invite them, they bring their own culture
 from America or elsewhere which they haven't abandoned and they certainly
 aren't about to discredit or abandon the speaking of Chinese or English or

 It is a category in need of serious research, serious questions.

 People, especially indigenous people, may not take it serious on a first
 but they certainly will in time if they think someone is interested in some
 honest questions and some honest answers.

 And that would be progress although it may very well spell change for mission
 policy and supervision in the field.

 Matthew McDaniel

 Trond Trosterud wrote:

 > SIL again.
 > I am an atheist, and consider all religious belief as varieties of
 > believing in Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and the like.
 > But I also know that religious people cannot be rescued from their
 > respective paradises.
 > What they can be, and should be, as anyone else, is criticized for their
 > actions. Where and when this should happen is another matter, though.
 > Critique should be specific, and relevant. Of course we can criticize them
 > for being culture imperialists, but personally I find this a boring
 > exercise, since cultural imperialism per definition is the core of their
 > activity: They want other people to think the same way about unexplained
 > natural phenomena, ethics and life after death (religion.s main domains) as
 > they do themselves (and exchanging this for the well-known reward post
 > mortem). Criticizing missionaries for that is like criticizing a chess
 > player for moving the pieces around on the table. I expect the discusions
 > on this list to be on a more advanced level than stating such
 > self-evidentness. In short: we must write new thougths, not only repeat old
 > ones. Otherwise this list will stagnate, and a valuable tool for improving
 > on endangered lg work will be gone.
 > Criticism of missionaires of a more specific kind (against linguistic
 > assimilation, etc.) must be done on a case-to-case-basis, and preferably
 > not to this audience, but to audiences that are more favourable towards
 > missionaries, and that are more likely to be able to have influence upon
 > missionary.s work. I thus see the ongoing SIL flames more like letters
 > arguing against capitalism, sent to the editor of a communist daily (I read
 > one myself, and know what I am talking about).

> As for myself, I would start out by criticising Norwegian (and for the rest
> of you: British!!!, US!!!) cultural "aid" to e.g. african countries, that
> more often than not have the effect of making linguistic assimilation more
> effective than it is today. Politically governed aid will also be easier to
> convict by "politically correct" arguments. As for the SIL flames, they
> should be directed towards the SIL donors. The Norwegian missionaries live
> a lifetime in africa among the population there, and make written lgs, in
> sharp contrast to norwegian gov.t aid staff, that have good salaries, live
> their arconditioned urban life, and return to Norway after a couple of
> years of giving advices to the natives (and again, we have good gov.t aid
> programs as well, and criticism must be concrete). A possible critique of
> them must first find out what Norwegian missionaries are doing, and then
> write cronicles in the daily newspapers where their mass basis is strongest
> (In Norway: the south coast, our Bible Belt).
> On this list, I would like to see discussion on how to support endangereld
> lgs, rather than discussion on how to stop missionaires from being just
> that.
> Surely, giving a people a bible in their own lg is part of a modernisation
> program taking them away from trad society and into global monoculture, but
> so is all forms of wr lg programs. Vietnamese wr lg was made by monks in
> the 17th c, if I am not wrong, but it was good enough for ho chi minh.
> But the 3 questions posed by Diego Quesada were important, if this forum is
> able to spot a new trend in missionary work, this trend should be localised
> and thereafter debated, and appropriate actions should then be taken
> towards "any relevant missionary society near you".
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> Trond Trosterud                                     t +47 7764 4763
> Finsk institutt, Det humanistiske fakultet          h +47 7767 3639
> N-9037 Universitetet i Troms., Noreg                f +47 7764 4239
> Trond.Trosterud at hum.uit.no  http://www2.isl.uit.no/trond/index.html
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
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Matthew McDaniel
The Akha Heritage Foundation
386/3 Sailom Joi Rd
Maesai, Chiangrai, 57130
Mobile Phone Number:  Sometimes hard to reach while in Mountains.

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