The Hmong Orphan: A Suffering Servant

Hmong Girl in Long Tieng 1973 Garry Jenkin
Hmong Girl in Long Tieng, 1973, by Garry Jenkin

In chapter 53 of the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, the text describes an individual who is “despised and rejected of men,” who has “borne our sorrows,” who has “no form nor comeliness…that we should desire him,” and so forth. The Christians (Mormons included) interpret these verses to be prophecies of Christ and his mission, while most Jewish scholars recognize the individual mentioned as a stand-in for the House of Israel. Either way, these verses are known as the “Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant,” the other three songs occurring in the preceding chapters of Isaiah. The “Suffering Servant” endures abuse and mistreatment, sometimes even unto death, and because of his suffering, redeems his people as a whole.

The Hmong people have their own “Suffering Servant”: The Orphan. In Hmong media, the orphan is front and center. The orphan’s plight is one of the primary motifs running through Hmong folktales, novels, stories, sung poetry (kwv txhiaj), and movies. Like the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, the Hmong Orphan can be viewed both as an individual, Christ-like figure and as a representation of the Hmong people and how they view their situation in the world.

Continue reading “The Hmong Orphan: A Suffering Servant”