Gospel and Culture
Gospel and Culture in Lisu Context
Lisu people, very small ethnic group in this ‘Global Empire,’ have their own joyful community, a loving shared culture, ways of tradition, language and their own valuable and living identities. And, Lisu are also known as Yawyin or, in a few places Yobin. Lisu are believed to originate from eastern Tibet and Mongolia in Lisu 'Mukuya,' and 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 people began moving southwards down the Salween River Valley and into northern Myanmar and northern Thailand.
II. Lisu Beliefs
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.
III. 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.
IV. Present Lisu Christians and Culture
From the time of conversion to Christianity, Lisu people were fully gospelled to abandon most cultural heritages and traditional ways which were taught to believe as animist or evil ways. Today, most Lisu churches and Christians and religious leaders cannot accept them. They are still blinded to adjust and relate between Gospel and Culture. Only Lisu language and traditional dressings are used. That is in this day and age, the only fact of cultural crisis which separates Lisu Christian and Lisu of other faiths. In Myanmar, there are still Lisu animists in Mogoke area, northern Shan state and northeast Kachin State.
In Mogoke area, there can be seen so terrible and fed-up disagreement and misunderstandings between Lisu Christians and Lisu of other faiths (some are animists and ancestral worshippers and some are Buddhists) for all Lisu Christians do not participate and celebrate in the traditional festivals such as New Year and wedding and in any singing traditional songs (YO-YE) and dancing (GW-CE). Recently, only some educated Lisu Christians came to know and initiate to practice some traditional ways.
It is now the real time for all Lisu Christians to start to accept and aware of cultural heritages and traditional ways as parts of God's creation with practical actions. It is required for all people to maintain and make good care of God's creation. Taking action to get rid of and care of, in addition some unfavorable and bad traditional customs and ways such as swearing, polygamy, elopement, competition between clans, oppressing women, drinking alcohol at all celebrations is very central. On other hand, continuing to practice traditional minds such as respecting elders, hospitality, unity with pure-minded and co-operation is needed too.
Joshua Yang, Jesus and Lisu. D. Min Thesis. Saint Paul School of Theology. 1975.
Li Esther Aye Aye Theint, Christ in Lisu Culture. BD Thesis. Myanmar Institute of Theology. 1998.
Wa Ye Zi, Animism in Lisu beliefs. BD Thesis. Myanmar Institute of Theology. 1994.