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A Hmong woman and children in Vietnam. Some rights reserved by koen_photos

In the land of Zomia

One of the most successful denominations in my homeland of Wales was the Calvinistic Methodists. (Yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron.) In the 19th century, these Methodists launched missionary work among the Mizo people in northeastern India and were so effective that today almost 90 percent of the Mizos are Christian. In 2006 the flourishing Mizo church began returning the favor—it sent two missionaries to reconvert Wales.

Any account of modern Asian Christianity must deal with minority peoples like the Mizo, who long occupied a marginal status in the European empires and the post-imperial states. Such groups are sometimes labeled “tribal,” which encourages us to dismiss them as primitive and irrelevant. Recently, though, scholars have devised a new category for these minorities, and their work is extraordinarily valuable for understanding the history of Christian mission.

 

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