Frequently Asked Questions

Burma or Myanmar?

Is it called Burma or Myanmar? In 1989, the SLORC government mandated that their country should henceforth be known in English as Myanmar instead of Burma. (In all, several hundred place names were changed; another prominent example was the renaming of Rangoon to Yangon). This name change has not been accepted by all members of the international community. Some, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, did not recognize the legitimacy of the...

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Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), The

The Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) / National Unity Party took over the government of Myanmar in a military coup in 1962 and held power until 1988. During this time, it was led by General Ne Win and called for government ownership of all forms of production. Under the BSPP, the government largely cut itself off from the rest of the world, discouraging tourism and foreign investment. After civilian uprisings in 1987 and 1988, power was transferred from the BSPP to a new military-led government,...

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Burmans (also known as Bamar) are the largest ethnic and linguistic group in present-day Myanmar, accounting for approximately two-thirds of the population. They live primarily in the Irrawady Basin and speak Burmese. A distinction must also be made between Burman and Burmese; the latter term refers to any citizen of Myanmar, not just those of the Burman ethnic group.

Almost without exception, Burmans are Buddhist, a fact that has influenced its relationships with other ethnic groups for...

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Byzantine Empire

The Eastern portions of the Roman Empire that survived the fall of Rome and flourished until the Ottoman invasion of the capital Constantinople in 1453. 


The caliphate refers to Islam’s politico-religious position of authority established with the death of the Prophet Muhammad, at which point the caliphate, or “God’s deputy on earth,” passed to his successor Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. The Ottoman Empire inherited the caliphate from the defeated Mamluks upon conquering Egypt, and maintained a succession of caliphs until the fall of the Empire and the abolition of the caliphate under ...

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Cardinal Jaime Sin

Cardinal Jaime Sin (1928-2005) was the Archbishop of Manila and the most influential Roman Catholic leader in the political and popular opposition against Ferdinand Marcos. Hailing from a family of Chinese mestizos, Jaime Sin was appointed as cardinal in 1976 and remained in the position over the following decades. He remained politically active throughout his career, and was a critical supporter of...

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Catholic Church in Brazil, The

The Catholic Church is deeply enmeshed in Brazil’s culture, beliefs, and institutions. The Church arrived with the Portuguese conquest in the sixteenth century and has since been the dominant religion. From 1500 to 1889, Catholicism was the official state religion. Even after disestablishment and the efforts at secularization that began under the First Republic (1889-1930), the Catholic Church retained its property holdings and continued to play a significant role in public ritual and private social life.

The Catholic Church began the modern era as part of an alliance...

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Catholicism in France

Catholicism is the majority religion in France, though small numbers—roughly 4.5% of Catholics—attend mass and overall, adherence to Catholicism is declining. Roman Catholicism was the state religion of France beginning with the conversion of King Clovis I (d. 511) until the French Revolution, when the Church’s relationship with the state was radically redefined.

The close connection between the French monarchy and the Catholic Church began during the reign of Charlemagne (d. 814), who was the first to receive a papal coronation in the year 800. Through the coming centuries,...

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Catholicism in Myanmar

Roman Catholicism arrived in Myanmar with the Portuguese in the 16th century. Burmese descendants of the Portuguese, known as Bayingyi (derived from the Persian farenji, “foreigner” a term used widely throughout the Indian Ocean region and a legacy of the Crusades), make up the oldest Catholic community. 90% of Burmese Catholics come from the Karen, Chin, Kachin, Chin, Shan, and Kaw ethnic minorities and are a legacy of Catholic proselytization under...

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Catholicism in Nigeria

Catholicism arrived in the territory that would come to be known as Nigeria with Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, though their missionary efforts were largely unsuccessful and Catholicism virtually disappeared by the 17th century. Modern Catholic missions were established by priests from the Society of African Missions of Lyon in 1865, beginning in Lagos, and a vicariate was established in Benin in 1870. By 1920, numerous missions had appeared throughout Igboland, eventually outnumbering Anglican Church Missionary Society missions. Holy Ghost priests and priests from the St....

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