August 26, 2012

Myanmar singer works to prove Christianity doesn’t replace ethnic identity

The music spikes in volume as a young woman bursts onstage, singing with the husky voice of a blues musician and the energy of a death metal rocker.

After two songs, Christian Mo Kham*, a recording artist with two secular albums to her credit, respectfully places her hands together like a gesture of prayer and bows to the audience.

“God bless you,” she says.

Teacher and Rock Star

Christian Mo Kham* belts two songs during a benefit concert in Myanmar. Although she releases secular music on her albums, Kham's faith in Christ drives most of her life. 

Photo © 2012 IMB / Shiloh Lane

This blessing is unusual for a woman living in a country where at least 80 percent of the population adheres to Buddhism. Most Myanmar people base part of their ethnic identity on their adherence to the Buddhist faith. Because she devoted her life to Christ, Kham says some members from her own people group, the Shan, have accused her of becoming “American Shan.” They think she diluted her heritage with what they consider a “Western” religion.

But, Kham felt a call from the Lord in 1999 to follow Him, and for years, she has tried to explain to her people that obeying Christ and turning from Buddhism does not change her heritage. A few years ago, she even conducted village workshops with friends from her seminary to teach Shan literature and folk dances, sending the message that Christians value heritage, as well.

However, Kham’s actions don’t always change the minds of other Shan, and she endures accusations of ethnic betrayal. Yet when she encounters hardship, she remembers her Savior and His forgiveness of her own sins. Therefore, she knows she must forgive, as well, and she must persevere. Kham continues to work with the Shan because the Heavenly Father who erased her sin instructed her to do so.

“God called me and He pulled me into His mission,” she says. “He sent me to Shan missions.”

Now, Kham’s ministry has relocated from villages to seminary classrooms, but she still works with Shan people. She refuses to change her focus. Whether she is belting onstage or teaching in classrooms, Kham will stay true to the Lord’s calling. He called her to minister to her own people,and she will obey.

*Name changed