Interview for

Merry Seing Pai

7/10/2020

Interviewed By:

Chesley Chan

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:01:47
Summary

A refugee from Myanmar, Merry discusses her preservation of faith as she moved to Malaysia and then the U.S. to start a new life. She describes her relationship to Catholicism, the discrimination she faced in a Buddhist state, leaving her life in Malaysia for Georgia, and how she maintained her faith through each transition.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Merry Seing Pai

Date: 07/10/2020

Location: Stone Mountain, GA


Summary: A refugee from Myanmar, Merry discusses her preservation of faith as she moved to Malaysia and then the U.S. to start a new life. She describes her relationship to Catholicism, the discrimination she faced in a Buddhist state, leaving her life in Malaysia for Georgia, and how she maintained her faith through each transition.

Topics: Religious Discimination, Family, Employment, Religious Practice


Outline

Section 1: (00:04:10)

  • Early Life and Family - Ms. Pai was born in Chin State, Myanmar in a small town. She comes from a big family but lost her mother to child birth when she was 6 years old. This was very difficult for her family.

Section 2: (00:06:14)

  • Journey to Malaysia - Ms. Pai and her family left Myanmar/Burma due to religious discrimination and as a Catholic, Ms. Pai used praying to God to find guidance in her life. In Malaysia, Ms. Pai and her family received UN cards and became legal refugees. They were still cautious of police though and stayed where they could find work.

Section 3: (00:12:26)

  • Religion in Malaysia - Ms. Pai and her family were able to be connected to a church in Malaysia. They joined prayer meetings every week and Ms.Pai attributes never being taken by the “Operasi”, the imigration police, because of her family’s constant prayers..

Section 4: (00:15:14)

  • Life in Malaysia -  Ms.Pai was married before she moved to Malaysia and left Myanmar in 2010, her husband going first and then her following. She moved to Myanmar when she was about 30 and remained there for 2 years and 6 months working under UNHCR to provide education and domestic violence assistance to her community.

Section 5: (00:18:04)

  • Resettlement in Georgia, USA -  Ms. Pai discusses how her family left everything in Malaysia to start over in America. Ms. Pai was concerned about how to practice her religion in the US but her priest provided her with a letter that stated she was a true Catholic and a member of the church. Ms. Pai expresses loving America but that the differences she experienced made her aware to be cautious.

Section 6: (00:22:40)

  • Continuing Catholic Faith - Ms. Pai explains that they came to Georgia because her husband’s cousin lived there and how her family went to the church of her husband’s cousin. This church did not differ from the church in Malaysia. Ms.Pai specifies that her husband and son are also Catholic.

Section 7: (00:24:54)

  • Burma Traditions-  Ms. Pai discusses how they continued practicing traditions from Myanmar/Burma in Malaysia. She remembers her father telling her how to respect others and she still continues to obey this counsel with her own family.

Section 8: (00:39:19)

  • Generational Conflict of Religion-  Ms. Pai relates the conflict of religion between school and home as she was expected to practice Buddhism at school but be Catholic at home. She explains how this did not confuse her due to her father’s resilient Catholic faith. Ms.Pai then relates the challenge of being Catholic in a Buddhist town and the discrimination the Catholic community faced. She states how the leadership in Myanmar currently pretends to promote freedom but, in secret, are still discriminating against specific religions.

Section 9: (00:52:57)

  • Maintaining Religion in the US- Ms. Pai explains how many refugees changed their religions after being resettled but that she maintained the same Catholic faith that she had since living in Myanmar. She expresses that praying more made her stronger. She then discusses encountering other people from Myanmar who are not Catholic. Ms. Pai then begins to discuss how people have differing opinions concerning the Catholic faith which can cause people to change their faith. Ms. Pai provides examples of why she remains Catholic and has remained strong.

Section 10: (00:55:44)

  • Personal Meaning of Religion- Ms. Pai states that she will die with her religion and will not change. She explains how she has upheld different religious traditions and values with her children. She also expresses that practicing her religion has been the best for her.

Section 11: (00:59:16)

  • Covid-19 Impact- Ms.Pai states that her family has become closer due to the pandemic. She expresses the difficulty of doing online school with her kids and relates how her family does everything together due to the pandemic. Ms. Pai also states how she has taught her children not to solely pray for themselves but also for others who are being affected by the virus.