On This Day

The Day When Myanmar’s First Christian Convert was Baptized

By The Irrawaddy 27 June 2020

Yangon — On this day in 1819, U Naw became the first reported Christian convert to be baptized in the history of Myanmar (then Burma).

The 35-year-old fishery worker (and later a timber worker) converted after he learned about Christianity from US missionary Adoniram Judson at a zayat, an assembly point built by Judson near his house.

As relations suffered with U Naw’s Buddhist wife and neighbors, the convert took shelter with Judson. He was then baptized at the Butterfly Lake inside the Cantonment Garden near the Shwedagon Pagoda. Many people watched his baptism. Two more converts were baptized four months later, drawing the ire of the authorities.

Judson left Yangon (then Rangoon) for Mandalay to petition King Bagyidaw to grant freedom for missionaries to preach throughout the country. At the same time, U Naw left Yangon and faded into obscurity.

It was believed that he left Yangon due to harassment by the authorities and died during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26).

However, U Naw is remembered by Baptists and the “U Naw Church” in Yangon’s Lanmadaw Township opened after World War II. Its name was later changed to the “U Naw Memorial Baptist Church”. June 27 is designated as U Naw Day and is marked annually with prayers.

An event to mark the bicentenary of U Naw’s baptism was held in Yangon last year and attended by Vice-President Henry Van Thio, a Christian.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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