Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center
Backstory and Context
Indiana has been home to thousands of refugees and asylum seekers. These communities attempt to weave themselves into the dominant culture of Indiana while still maintaining their roots. The Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center is an exemplary testament to the health and success of Fort Wayne's Rohingya refugee population.
The BMECC is not only an achievement for Burmese Hoosiers, but also displaced Rohingya communities around the world. What is especially interesting about this location in particular is that it is the first Burmese mosque to be built anywhere in the world in the last 40 years.
Burmese immigration to Indiana primarily began with the Burmese military coup of 1988. The ruling regime began to persecute Burma's ethnic minorities like the Rohingya and Chin who now reside in Indiana. Since 1991 6,000 Burmese immigrants have immigrated to Indiana. When including their Hoosier born children, Indiana's Burmese population reaches nearly 20,000 individuals. The Rohingya who built the Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center number nearly 1000 and represent the largest concentration of Rohingya anywhere in the United States.
Beyond the Rohingya, Indiana contains the largest concentration of Burmese immigrants across ethnic divisions. This largely began as a result of the 1991 designation of Fort Wayne as a Burmese refugee resettlement site. This was a result of the assessment that the city had "low unemployment, availability of jobs requiring little or no facility with English, low housing costs, and a comparatively low crime rate." This was complimented by Fort Wayne Catholic and Lutheran organizations that had previously been involved in Burmese refugee resettlement in the 80's. Since then, situations have changed darastically. Isik-Ercan reports that Burmese immigrants in Fort Wayne face a "less than appealing job market." Many residents and families are broken up due to many available jobs being outside the state. Despite this, according to Isik-Ercan, these communities are still growing because of the convenience of establish Burmese neighborhood communities.
Stockman, Dan. “Seeking Refuge: Fitting in without Losing Cultural Roots, Burmese Refugees Advance in Indiana.” Global Sisters Report, 2:00am. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/migration/seeking-refuge-fitting-without-losing-cultural-roots-burmese-refuges-advance-indiana.
WANE. “Fort Wayne Mosque Makes History around the World,” May 25, 2015. https://www.wane.com/news/fort-wayne-mosque-makes-history-around-the-world/.
Isik-Ercan, Zeynep. “Education of Young Burmese Refugees in the Midwestern United States.” Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration 1 (2009): 26–30.
Park, Clara C., Russell Endo, Stacey J. Lee, and Xue Lan Rong. Asian American Education: Acculturation, Literacy Development, and Learning. IAP, 2007.
Simpson, Dave. “Nation of Immigrants: Fleeing Burma for Fort Wayne, Indiana.” Vice (blog), February 6, 2017. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9a8wma/nation-of-immigrants-fleeing-burma-for-fort-wayne-indiana.