Formerly:   British and Foreign Bible Society
Address:     262 Sule Pagoda Road
Year built:   1910
Architect:    Robinson & Mundy

This red brick building became the heart of Christian evangelical efforts in the early 20th century. Being four storeys in height, it reveals the average scale of buildings in the city at the time—and until recently. Although the adjacent Sakura Tower dwarfs it today, the building still stands out thanks to its good condition and simple, graceful form.

The century-old building seems squeezed next to Sakura Tower

Robinson & Mundy were the architects and contractors in charge. Their imprint on Yangon is considerable: they also built the British Embassy, the former Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise Building and Ayeyarwady Bank, as well as the large functional transit sheds at Sule Pagoda Wharf. The latter still dominate the view from the riverside.

After Ne Win took power in 1962, foreign missionaries were expelled from the country. In 1964, the Bible Society was reorganised under national leadership. Today it still oversees the dissemination and translation of Christian holy texts into the country’s myriad ethnic languages. Today the Bible (or portions thereof) exists in 71 of Myanmar’s languages.

It all began with an American Protestant missionary named Adoniram Judson. He translated the entire Bible into Burmese and published it in 1835. By that time he had spent more than two decades in the country and mastered the language so well that his translation remains the most popular to this day. When he arrived there were no Protestants in the country; it was several years before he was able to perform his first baptism in 1819. Yet upon his death in 1850 there were as many as 8,000 faithfuls and about 100 Protestant churches around the country. Today about 4 per cent of Myanmar’s population is Christian, and three quarters of those Protestant. Most of them belong to the country’s ethnic minorities such as the Chin, Kachin, Karen and Lisu.

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