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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So where is Myanmar and how is it relevant to Howard County??

In 1989, the military government in Burma officially changed the English translations of many colonial-era names, including the name of the country to "Myanmar".  This is a country of 50 million people, over 90% Buddhist, 8 ethnic groups,135 tribes and 163rd out of 193 in per capita income in the world according to the International Monetary Fund (Haiti is 167 for comparison purposes). The military government has an agenda to have Burmese the only language spoken, Burman the only recognized race and Buddhism the only recognized religion.  The persecution of all other groups has created a significant refugee population that has fled the country to Malaysia.  The Christian part of this refugee population, from the section of the country called Chin, has been granted asylum in the United States and that leads us to Howard County.  

Refugee resettlement organizations in Baltimore look at where in the Baltimore region these refugees can be resettled. Once a resettled refugee group identifies housing and employment in a community later arriving refugees have a support system in place to make the transition to a community.  In Howard County the support system has been created by churches established by resettled Chin pastors.  There are now 3 churches with over 400 members serving the Chin population in Howard County. There are now 137 refugees from Myanmar in the Howard Community College English Language Center.

As we today see the political unrest in Africa and the Middle East and the potential for refugees from that region in the future we might see an increasing internationalization of Howard County in ways that Jim Rouse would have never envisioned when he created a community that embraced diversity.  Globalization is connecting us in ways never thought of 50 years ago.

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