Magazine Features Akron

Akron's Refugee Community Enriches Schools
Posted on 12/05/2019

The nation of Myanmar, formerly Burma, is made up of eight ethnic groups speaking 135 different dialects. The Mon, making up just two percent of Myanmar’s estimated 55 million people, are one of the smallest groups and also one of the oldest. In some histories, the Mon are known as the first people to bring Theravada Buddhism to Indochina. More recently, they’ve brought that same tradition to Akron, Ohio.

“Akron is the best place for refugees. There are more job opportunities here,” said Khin Maug Soe, a Mon man who works as an employment case manager at the International Institute of Akron (IIA), a refugee placement and settlement program. According to Soe, about 80 percent of the Mon living in Akron have stable jobs and have bought houses. “They plan to stay here,” he said.

In recent decades, Myanmar has been ruled by an oppressive military junta. While the situation has stabilized somewhat after recent political reforms, inter-ethnic conflict persists, most notably in the Rakhine state, where genocidal violence against Rohingya Muslims has forced hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh. The Mon people have also long faced persecution, and their language is in decline. Some of them have been seeking a better life in the United States, and many say they have found it in Akron. Read more here >>.
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