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Methodist missionaries in colonial and postcolonial Upper Burma, 1887–1966

The first British Methodist missionaries came to Upper Burma in 1887 and the last left in 1966. They were known as 'Wesleyans' before 1932 and afterwards as 'Methodists'. This book is a study of the ambitions, activities and achievements of Methodist missionaries in northern Burma from 1887-1966 and the expulsion of the last missionaries by Ne Win. Henry Venn, the impeccably evangelical Secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), was the most distinguished and inspiring of nineteenth-century mission administrators. Wesleyan missionaries often found property development more congenial than saving souls. In Pakokku in December 1905, a 'weak' American missionary from Myingyan and a couple of Baptist Burman government officials began 'totally immersing' Wesleyans. Proselytism was officially frowned upon in the Indian Empire. The Wesley high schools were extraordinarily successful during the early years of the twentieth century. The Colonial Government was investing heavily in education. A bamboo curtain descended on Upper Burma in May 1942. Wesley Church Mandalay was gutted during the bombing raids of April 1942 and the Japanese requisitioned the Mission House and the Girls High School soon afterwards. General Ne Win was ruthlessly radical in 1962. By April 1964 Bishop was the last 'front-line' Methodist missionary in Upper Burma and the last European of any sort in Monywa. The book pulls together the themes of conflict, politics and proselytisation in to a fascinating study of great breadth.

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The Wesley high schools were extraordinarily successful during the early years of the twentieth century ( figure 6 ). They were centres of learning, producers of public servants and much sought after by Burmese parents. 1 The early missionaries intended their schools to be nurseries for church leaders and proselytisers of new members. In the event the Mandalay Leper Home probably produced more converts than all the schools put together. The schools lost their lustre in the 1920s, caused many headaches during the

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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killed. Houses were ransacked and anything of value was looted. 23 A group of Methodists fled into the jungle with U Chit, Principal of Wesley High School Pakokku. After living ‘rough’ for several months they returned to the town, only to be driven out again by RAF bombing. The church and the school were destroyed. 24 Japanese and BIA soldiers occupied the mission buildings. The local Kempeitai (Japanese military police) suspected the Methodists of being British spies and regularly dragged them into police headquarters for

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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the railway quarters and the ABM rest-house had gone. The Methodist holiday houses were still standing. Indians were squatting in ‘Woodlands’, ‘Farlands’ was dilapidated but ‘Landsdowne’ was a billet for troops and was in excellent condition. 14 Wesley High School in Pyawbwe was a grimy shell and the Mission House had been commandeered by the National High School. The headmaster, U San Ohn, and Mr Hardy, chairman of the governors, wanted to cooperate with the Methodists. In Chauk the Union Church had been used as a

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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Ohn and Dr Jamaldin, for example, are leaders in the Mandalay Church today. 25 Several church members are employed in the District Office and the YMCA, and they live on land previously occupied by the Mandalay Girls and Boys Wesley High Schools. 26 U Tin Maung Htwe (1948–2009) is a notable exception. He was one of the few active politicians in the Church (Interview, 2007). A graduate civil engineer and treasurer of Wesley Church Mandalay, he was brave, astute

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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Wesley High School Monywa, were nationalised and all pupils were required to follow the same cheerlessly instrumental curriculum consisting of agricultural and vocational subjects. Army officers took over the Burma Economic Development Corporation, State Agriculture Marketing Board and the State Timber Board. The press was censored, the civil service regulated and a single national party was established. 2 Privately owned enterprises and overseas conglomerates were nationalised. Major foreign aid programmes were cancelled. 3 Paddy

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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trajectories. The former attended elitist English schools like Fergusson and Elphinstone and ended up in Punjab University College Lahore, while the latter were educated at St Paul’s, St John’s or a Wesley high school and progressed to Rangoon University. A select few met in Calcutta University, but for most Burmans Rangoon was ‘the apex of [their] looping flight.’ On these educational ‘pilgrimages’ Indian and Burmese students imbibed the same subversive political ideas and revered the same radical heroes. 36 Before 1920

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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ability to speak English were now the keys to success. Ambitious Burmese parents queued to get their sons into the new Wesley High Schools which were earning reputations for firm discipline and good teaching. 22 Parents realised that their children might be proselytised but considered it to be a price worth paying. They need not have worried, for evangelism in schools usually stiffened resistance rather than gained converts. Wesleyan attitudes softened as the Burmans became more compliant. Many of the younger missionaries were

in Conflict, politics and proselytism

coolies. 62 Mrs Shaw was the wife of a tea planter, she was blonde and statuesque. 63 Vincent returned to Mawlaik to help the evacuation. Bernard Sewell, MA, BSc b. Deal 1906; educated Dover Grammar School and Westminster College; qualified teacher; Principal, Wesley High School Mandalay; trained at Wesley House, Cambridge in 1933; returned Burma 1936; married Joyce Morton-George 1942; their ship was torpedoed off South Africa; returned to England in 1946

in Conflict, politics and proselytism
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. ‘Evangelistic effort’ in the town had been blunted. The church was inward-looking and lacking in ambition and the Civil War had isolated surrounding villages. 57 Two church members were engaged in a bitter legal dispute, and a disgraced minister had upset members of the congregation by turning up unexpectedly. 58 Monywa Wesley High School, once so prestigious, was now a shambles. One teacher had died, three had retired and the others showed no interest in Christianity. 59 The year 1957 was an annus horribilis. A huge fire swept

in Conflict, politics and proselytism