Setting Ecological Ethics up in the Context of Modern Myanmar Lisu People
Today, as the empire of 'Globalization' has a far reach on this earth; this ever-on-going dynamic process has been making all the arenas and realities of this globe to be a new picture of unexpected time. It is also formulating the world to be a better society as well as a worst society as well. Even the skip of this global empire directly based on economical setting, it is on one hand continually and consequently interacting and touching with all the economical, political, social, environmental, educational, technological, intellectual and cultural circles and so on. The play of this vibrant and active process makes here and then something as opportunities or challenges to everyone, every country and especially to every small ethnic group positively and negatively.
Besides, not only that new blessing, so-called 'globalization' but also other turning point such as 'Ecological Crisis' is also coming into at the very stage of being popularity especially for every country or nation or ethnic group throughout the world. It what's more lets the human society come about worst society day by day. It came in fact to take place because of human beings mostly only by themselves and then it calls here for emergency again for being stopped and changed only by each act of human beings. This big deal of issue directly and necessarily lays a hand on each human being on this earth. It is, so entirely impractical to transform and build the world without knowing natural process and environmental system in accordance with common global ecological ethics. Likely, Lisu people, one of the 136 ethnic groups of Myanmar, also need to be on familiar terms with this dilemma of common worldly affair and evaluate themselves in the midst of their community for knowing that they are also one of the living smallest ethnic groups in this world.
I. Who are the Lisu?
According to Burkey Richard, ethnic group is a community group based upon the ascribed status of a diffuse ancestry that is maintained by a shared culture, language, and or phenotype. Ethnicity is also a set of attitudes related to a sense of ancestral identification with a certain segment of human society, from simple food-gathering to complex post-industrial community, ethnicity has persisted.
In the same sense, Lisu, very small ethnic group in this ‘Global Empire,’ Lisu have their own joyful community, a loving shared culture, ways of tradition, language and their own valuable and living identities. Thus, Lisu are also known as 'Yawyin' or, in a few places 'Yobin.' The Lisu are believed to originate from eastern Tibet and Mongolia in Lisu 'Mukuya,' but recent historical linguistic work by Dr. David Bradley indicates that they moved to eastern Tibet/northwestern Yunnan in the 18th century. Not long after that, in the early 19th century, Lisu peoples began moving southwards down the Salween (Shweli) River Valley into northern Myanmar and northern Thailand. Their religion is part animist and ancestor worship; curing took place through shamanism. However, some Lisu converted to Protestant Christians starting in the early 20th century. The first Lisu to be reached by Christian missionaries were the Salween branch of the Lisu in Yunnan Province, China. The Scottish missionary James O. Fraser was the first Christian ever to have Lisu converts in China.
In Myanmar the first Lisu converts began in Myitkyina. As early as 1898, George J. Geis, an American Baptist Missionary to Kachin in Myitkyina, visited a Lisu village and had taken with the people using the Kachin language. His continuation of contact had resulted in converting a couple named Ngwa Tar and Gu Na Du. According to Geis' report; their baptism took place in October 1902. And they, converted couple settled down six miles north of Myitkyina at a place called Manhkring, the Kachin Christian village in that area. Thus, Manhkring has become the birthplace of Lisu Christianity. Other Lisu baptisms were reported in the following years and Lisu Christians moved down to Manhkring village, where later they established their own Lisu village adjoining that of Kachin. Tegenfeldt gives a footnote to the Lisu churches, 'they were a part of the Manhkring Kachin Baptist Church, although they held some services in their own tongue. After World War II, they formed their own local church, remaining, however, a part of the district association and the Kachin Baptist Convention. In these current days, Lisu have their convention namely 'Lisu Baptist Convention.' This convention is combination of five associations: Mogoke, Myitkyina, Wai Maw, Shan, and Bhamo association.
Religiously speaking, Lisu people are influenced by animist religion. The ancestors of today's Lisu were originally animists. As Gailyn Van Rheenen notes, animists perceive that "all of life is controlled by spiritual powers" and in various ways "seek to manipulate these power." Almost every area of life depends on spirits in the Lisu animistic culture. In spirit worship or practice, the first word charm was "Sar-Wu-Sa," meaning "Three Gods." With this word, "Sar-Wu-Sa," missionaries tried to identify with Trinity, God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. On one hand, worshipping ancestors was transformed into the Christian ways of respecting parents.
Above and beyond, Lisu religion embraces beliefs and practices related to various categories of spirits (NI:) such as the village guardians, and all powerful Being, called Wu-Sa (WU-S). Like many hill people of Northern part of Southeast Asia. Lisu people also recognize a large of number of spirits (NI:) including those of recently deceased ancestors. There are some Chinese influences in Lisu practice of ancestor propitiation. In ancient days, Lisu were animists. Some in Northern Shan state and Northern Kachin state and Mogoke area are still animists today. There is a belief that forests and hills, rivers, streams and lakes, water and land, villages and houses have guardian spirits (NI:). And the worship of Spirit (NI:) is the main belief in worship. So the spirits are to be worshipped and sacrifices made to them from the time of the birth until they die in order to get all their material, social and spiritual welfare.
3) Cultural Heritages
There are different kinds of traditional festivals such as naming-ceremony, first-fruit sacrifice, New Year, wedding, and funeral. Out of these festivals, New Year celebration is the most valued and important festival for Lisu people. There is a legendary story in Lisu people concerning New Year festival. After creation of heaven and earth, God descended on earth and sat under pine tree. Then a man saw him and informed all villagers about his finding of God. People slaughtered pigs, distilled liquor and on the eight day all villagers carried pork, liquor, musical instruments and went to the place. God was not there, only his sitting place observed. However they hung pork and bread on the tree under which God had sat and performed and offering and dancing. Every year pine tree would be planted, offering made God searched.
More to the point, Lisu people have their own traditional costume. Both man and woman have beautiful and colorful dressings. Traditional songs (YO-YE) and dances (GW-CE) also play very vital role as Lisu people are well known as singing and dancing people. Concerning with songs (YO-YE), there are different kinds of traditional songs such as New Year song, Spirit-calling song, naming song, wedding song, farewell song, friend meeting song, song of elopement, song of orphan, guest-welcoming song, song of new-crops sacrifice, hunting song and love song. When it comes to dances (GW-CE), likely different there songs are many different kinds of dances depending on occasions.
4) Ecological Views
Genesis 1:26-28, states that God gave the first humans dominion over the earth and ordered them to subdue it. Out of this gift and demand has developed a perspective which sees nature as an 'it' to be utilized for human benefit. This view originally gained currency in Israel's competition with its neighbors. The Canaanites and others in the region worshipped nature gods. Although there were many variations, nature was generally seen as sacred in the worship of these neighbors. Nature had a life of its own and that life was divine. In contract stood Israel with its faith based on history. God had made a covenant with Israel and continued to act in human history in accordance with the promises of this covenant. Nature was not sacred. It was a created good to be used, a thing with no divine status whatsoever.
Not like Israelites, Lisu people have been afraid of nature from the time of ancestors as they worshiped the gods of nature. Only after worshipping and sacrifices to gods (NI:), they can do their agricultural matters where they want to do for agriculture. So, they have respect and strong belief on each god and area of their environment. Lisu love natural order and supplies. Agricultural works are the only possible and available economical supplies for them. So their lives only depend on their environment. They know that natural resources are their lives. And most of Lisu are un-educated and are living only on high green mountains. They are so lovingly and happy-going people on the mountains. They have much fear of living in civil community. Thus, it can be hopefully said that Lisu and their environment are inter-dependent and inter-existence.
II. Ecological Issues?
1) What is Ecology?
A word, "ecology" derived from the Greek roots 'oikos' meaning 'house.' It is literally the study of 'homes' or 'environment.' It is also as being a branch of Biology studying of the relationship between living organisms with each other and with their physical environments. It is also the science of biological interactions among individuals, populations and communities with their non-living environments. The plants and animals are mainly considered in communities, and all surroundings, both inanimate and animate, are included in the study.
2) Ecological Crises around the World?
At first, it will deal what there are happening around the world as Lisu are also one of the smallest co-living ethnic groups in this world. What happening around the world really impact on Lisu too. In fact, it is entirely unfavorable alteration of the physical, chemical, or biological balance of the environment that has adverse effects on the normal functioning of all life-forms, including humans. Under pollution substances, bacteria or viruses present in such concentrations or numbers as to impair the quality of the water rendering it less suitable or unsuitable for its intended use and presenting a hazard to man or to his environment. It is of following types – Air pollution, caused by industrial, vehicular, domestic waster. Water pollution caused by industrial, community and domestic waste. Others are soil pollution (including excessive, erosion), food pollution and noise pollution (excessive sound undesirable for a normal ear). In it an identified excess is known to be determined to desirable living organisms. It is direct or indirect alteration of the physical, thermal, biological or radioactive properties of any part of the environment by discharging, emitting, or depositing wastes of substance so as to affect any beneficial use adversely.
Deforestation is here removing the trees permanently either for commercial purposes or to put the land to other uses. Soil Erosion, is also the removal of soil by natural means (such as being removed by water or by wind) and by the activities of human being. It creates sheet/gully erosion. It results in poor soil deforestation, poor agricultural practices with far reaching consequences. Population Growth as over-population is one of the problematical ecological crises. It has been known for centuries that a world population is growing. It is said that in the year AD 1800 about 1,000 million people, AD 1900 about 2,000 million, by AD 1974 doubled again to 4,000 million, by AD 1987 the total reached 5,000 million and by AD 2000 the world population figure will have passed 6,000 million. Since, in the 1980s, with 4,000 million people, one-fifth of them (800 million) were destitute, it is being anxiously asked how more than 6,000 million people can possibly be fed twenty yeas later?
Besides, "Greenhouse effect" is one of the main causes of global warming. Green House is here an air condition apartment used for growing the plants creating desired temperature conditions. It is also the warming of the air around the Earth because the heat from the sun is trapped there by a layer of pollution high up in the atmosphere. Note: Most of the light and heat energy from the sun is usually sent back into space from the Earth by clouds and by the land. However, greenhouse gases absorb some that heat and light and sent it back to the Earth, so it gets warmer. As people make more greenhouse gases, more heat is trapped close to the Earth and it gets warmer and warmer.
3) Ecological Crises in the Context of Modern Myanmar Lisu people?
When it comes to the riches of Myanmar, Myanmar distinctively well-off in land and water resource is like a large reservoir of natural resources. It is home to numerous animal and plant species (300 known mammal species, 300 reptiles, 1000 bird species, 68 butterflies species and 830 orchid species, 97 bamboo species, 27 cane species and other 7000 plant species); to rich mineral resources and to forest resources (50% of the total land area). Depletion of these natural resources in Myanmar has to do not necessarily with the powerless ethic/tribal people but mainly with the ruling class and rich business people who have often exploited natural resources in the name of rural community development. The major environmental problems that occur in Myanmar today are things like deforestation, logging, mining, constructions of dams, reservoirs, irrigation, water pollution through gold and silver mining, and shift cultivation.
It is so great for Lisu people those who got likelihood to live in beautiful and rich land. Likely, Lisu people are now facing ecological crises. It will here deal only some challenging ecological issues in Lisu context around Mogoke area. From the time of British Colonization (especially World War II), Mogoke was well-known as ‘Ruby Land’ because of its incomparable ruby. It is as the common truth that digging and mining ruby is the only economical door to make a living for everyone who lives around Mogoke area. There is still a dead lake so-called as Inn Gyi (big lake) at the center of Mogoke which was come to happen out of digging ruby by British Colonists. Likely, U Aung Thein and U Yaw Satt, very well-known Lisu rich men only started their lives from ruby. Besides, there are still sayings, “To Become a rich man (big boss), mountains are the answer” and “Ruby makes our dream come true,” and “we are Lown Pan Long (becoming boss).” And there is still a very well-known song, “Lown Pann Long (becoming boss),” among workers for ruby. Every worker has their own dream as “Kyauk Gyi Pou Yin,’ which means ‘if a precious ruby may be found.” More to the point, some popular areas for ruby are Kyat Pyin and Kyauk Pyant Thet and Tawng Tone (eight miles away from Mogok) and Lei Oo and somewhere around Mogok. Pyang Gong (seven miles away from Mogok) is also popular for its Kjau Sein (jade).
There can today be found not only Lisu but also other racial groups like Chinese, Shan, Burmese, Wa, Kachin and other companies, are around Mogoke for the reason of ruby. As a result, all the areas - land, forest and mountains around Mogoke are destroyed day by day for that reason of ruby. Its impacts go more than deforestation. The most problematic ecological issue so around Mogok directly concerns with digging its jewels. These are as very sad and unreasonable doings of tearing natural order and environmental system down which happens around Mogoke till now. Taking action to get rid of and care of, in addition some unfavorable and bad economical dependence on natural supply as destroying nature is the only critical moment for all around Mogoke.
4) Root Causes of Ecological Crises
Who is to blame for the onrushing ecological crisis? The answer is: "We have met the enemy, and he is US." Calvin B. DeWitt professor of environmental studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the AuSable Institute, illustrates that the basic problem is "human behavior." According to Robert Parhan, a director of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics, there are four root causes: 1) Arrogance: anthropocentrism, pride, the "Conquer Nature" view, the "end of time" view, the Jesus died for souls, not dirt" view and the "man can do it better" view, 2) Ignorance: lack of knowledge and preserved ignorance, 3) Greed: greed for exotic possessions, business greed and life-style greed 4) Indifference: sloth, apathy, laziness, "don’t care" attitude and obey the law, nothing more. More to these points, lack of education, lack of guaranteed-employment and lack of ecological education or ethics can mainly stared as root causes of ecological crises in the context of Lisu.
III. In Search of a New Order : Eco-just community
1) Christian Teachings on Ecology
The most important and abundant solitary here is what the Bible is teaching about ecology. A concern for ecology is rooted in the recognition of God as creator who calls humans to care for the earth and its resources in responsible and just ways. Besides, the environment critique of Christianity frequently cites Lynn White's 1967 article for the journal Science, 'The Roots of our Ecological Crisis.' White claimed that 'especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.' He argued this resulted from its dual inheritance from Judaism of a linear concept of time and a striking story of creation which gave to humans 'dominion' over all animals. Reinforced by the doctrine of incarnation, Western Christianity has as a result tended to believe that humanity 'shares, in great measure, God's transcendence of nature.'
At the heart of the theological debate is the question of how Western Christians have understood the Genesis accounts of creation, and especially the crucial verse:
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let then have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over all the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (Gen. 1:26)."
Augustine, Aquinas and Luther provide a fascinating contrast in their interpretations of 'dominion.' Together they serve to illustrate that Christianity, even in its Western form, is indeed as complex as simplistic notion that 'dominion' is to be treated as a synonym of 'exploitation.' In fact, in the light of this a return to the biblical texts is instructive. Dominion in Judaism and Christianity does not mean exploitation. Misuse of nature and people should bb labeled with its true name, sin. Dominion in the Hebrew texts means careful and loving stewardship. In Genesis 1:26-28, dominion is given to humans as God's viceroys. The viceroys have authority, but the earth belongs to God, and the viceroys are to pattern dominion on God's loving and caring rule. This God of the covenant has declared nature good and works within it to redeem both humans and creatures. This God is concerned for the whole creation, not just for one part of it.
2) Ecological Ethics
The most vital detail for Lisu people is to know the real drift of ecological ethics. It is here attitudinal change of man towards man, society and nature, in realization of man as part of nature, not alien to it. And it is also a value that judges human actions in terms of whether they harm, sustain, or improve environmental quality. In the modern era, an understanding of the interrelated character of living species within the context of ecosystems, coupled with the power of technology, has created an awareness of the fragile nature of the earth as the environment for life. Concerns such as pollution, population growth, toxic waste disposal, biological warfare and the extinction of indigenous species have made ecology one of the leading aspects of applied ethics today. Although many proponents of ecological concern appeal to non-Christian religious conceptions, Christians have also stood at the forefront of the ecology movement. Christian concern for ecology arises in part out of the biblical teaching regarding human stewardship over God's creation.
Stewardship is the principle that declares that the proper ethical stance begins with the acknowledgement of God as the owner of everything in creation, and as consequence views human begins as responsible to God for the wise use of all that is entrusted to them to administer in a manner in keeping with God's intended purposes. Often stewardship is viewed in the narrow sense of a person's responsibility for one's material recourses, especially money and possessions. In this sense, the principle of being responsible to God extends to the various aspects of one's financial dealings: earning, spending, buying, saving, investing and giving.
Today, stewardship is also generally understood in a more holistic or to all areas of life, both individual and communal, and includes both attitude and action. Stewardship as a spiritual principle is taught in the Stewardship is also one key. Daughters and sons are to receive the earth from their fathers and mothers and pass it on in no worse and hopefully better shape than they received it. And as shepherds are accountable for the sheep in their care, so humans are accountable for their stewardship of nature. Misuse of nature is sin and will be judged as such.
Furthermore, prominent in this ecological ethics are three norms: Justice, sustainable sufficiency and participation. Justice means fairness. In biblical witness the touchstone of justice is the welfare and liberation of the poor and the care of the land. In this case study justice calls for both the provision of a sufficient and sustainable energy and water supply. Sustainable sufficiency means good stewardship. It refers to the long range capacity of s system to supply energy and food for basic needs at a reasonable cost to society and the environment. This norm would certainly call into question the building of more dams in such an arid region. The costs are high and the sustainability of a large human population under such conditions is questionable. Participation is having a say in decisions which affect one's life. In this case it leads to the mandating of an open political process where the needs of both people and the environment are heard and taken into account.
3) Towards Eco-just Community
This tough and urgent undertaking of transforming and building a betterment of new eco-just community as global concern directly concerns and alarms everyone especially to Myanmar Lisu people. It can not be done by someone or some nation only. It needs all kinds of struggle, involvements and participation of each person or dweller in this world. It will be a kind of inter-national, inter-religious and inter-racial or inter-ethnic realities as inter-co-operations as inter-co-existences. In point of fact, Lisu have to know that they are both interdependent with the rest of creation and unique within it because they alone bear His image and have 'stewardship' over the earth. Lisu frequently forget their interdependence with the rest of God's world. Their daily existence depends on water, sun and air. There is indeed a real inter-co-environmental ecosystem. It matters how people treat the water, sun the trees and the animals. If they are harmed, so are themselves.
Based on Francis Schaeffer, the author proposes an "environmental ethical solution" that consists of five levels in order to make the world better. They are: 1) Humans properly related to God – reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18), 2) Humans properly related to self – infinite value (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20), 3) Humans properly related to other Humans (Lk. 10:30-37), 4) Humans properly related to Nature (Gen 1), 5) Nature properly related to Nature (Rom. 8:20-23).
All the loveliness and density of the earth are God's good gifts. Lisu must cultivate respect and honor for God's physical creation. They are His stewards, and He is watching! Environmental philosopher J. Baird Callicott's solution is a worldview, "an emerging global environmental consciousness." He also holds that "we have a special practical morally obliging goal to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community." Leonardo Dicaprio, a famous Hollywood actor now as celebrity of environmentalism, (founded Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation focusing and doing environmental activities) says that "environmental crisis are global issue, it directly deals with everyone and each individual is urgently challenged to be eco-global hero or savior especially to today's young people for environmental stewardship."
It is now the actual point in time for Lisu people of Myanmar for consciousness to initiate to understand and aware of natural value and environmental system, as core for building eco-just environment with the regard of God's creature with the right and practical dealings. Here what the most important thing is to know about ecological ethics. Making practical ecological awareness trainings and dynamic on-going activities and uniting inter-ecological organizations, are urgently needed. It is beyond question that ecological realities at last cover the common truth for all countries, religions, nations and ethnics. Here, Lisu people in their community must be pioneer as they have God-given co-stewards to play the most important role and it is then needed to co-operate with others. Their daily lifestyles with the right conduct of authentic ecological ethics will be the most effective matrix for all corners. And it will be also a kind of public welfare as mass transformation. At this time, ecological acts and ethics will wrap up not only for the sake of eco-just community but also for the goodness of inter-religious and inter-national and inter-ethnic with the truthfulness of co-existence and co-operation everywhere around the world.
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"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisu," accessed on September 6, 2008.
 Burkey Richard M, Ethnic and Racial Group, (London: Cumming Pub: Com, 1978), 25.
 Joshua Yang, "Jesus and Lisu," (D. Min Thesis, Saint Paul School of Theology, 1975), 45.
 Gailyn Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animist Contexts, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991), 96.
 Wa Ye Zi, Animism in Lisu beliefs, (BD Thesis: Myanmar Institute of Theology, 1994), 7-9.
 Robert L. Stivers. Ed., Christian Ethics, (New York: Orbis Books, 1989), 142.
 R. M. Lodha, Academic's Dictionary of Environment, (New Delhi: Academic (India) Publishers, 1999), 144.
 Ibid., 337.
 Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk, Environment Words: A Dictionary in Plain English, (Armidale: Images Asia,19-), 121.
 Ibid., 409.
 John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today: New Perspectives on Social & Moral Dilemmas, (London: Collins Publishing Group, 1990), 114.
 R. M. Lodha, 203.
 Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk, 145.
 Samuel Ngun Ling, Communicating Christ in Myanmar, (Yangon: ATEM, 2005), 252.
 Robert Parham, Loving Neighbors Across Time: A Christian Guide to Protecting the Earth, (Birmingham: New Hope, 1991), 9-17.
 Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 86.
 Robin Gill, A Textbook of Christian Ethics, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995), 360.
 Ibid., 361.
 R. M. Lodha, 142.
 Ibid., 154.
 Stanley J. Grenz. ed., Pocket Dictionary of Ethics, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 30-31.
 Ibid., 112-113.
 Robert L. Stivers, 142.
 Ibid., 144.
 James P. Eckman, Biblical Ethics: Choosing Right in a World Gone Wrong, (Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004), 91.
 Ibid., 93-94.
 Lisa Sowle Cahill. Ed., Christian Ethics: Problems and Prospects, (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 1996), 253.
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