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Praying with Refugees in India
01 April 2012

Many of the Chins seeking refuge are children, who came from Chin State, Burma, or who were born in Mizoram State, India. They lack legal status and often lack the basic necessities of life at a critical time in their mental, physical, and psychological development. Many Chin youth have fled to India unaccompanied by parents or family, fleeing from conscription into the Burmese military. Also, Chin children born in Mizoram State may be at risk of being stateless. (photo by Steven Rubin)
(Washington, D.C.) April 1, 2012 — The Chin people in Mizoram State, India, live in a protracted, urban refugee situation and face daunting problems related to protection, livelihood, health, and education. While many of them have been there for years, new arrivals continue to flee into Mizoram, including many youth who are fleeing forced conscription by the Burmese military.

Since 1988, tens of thousands of Chin people have fled from Chin State, Burma, seeking refuge in neighboring Mizoram State, India. Fleeing the widespread and persistent ethnic, political, and religious persecution by the Burmese military regime, their numbers in Mizoram have grown to an estimated 100,000. The Chins seeking refuge make up almost 10% of Mizoram's population, which is 95% Christian.

ZA, a recent arrival, is an 18-year-old single, male fleeing Burmese army conscription.

Even at his young age, the Burmese military has subjected ZA many times to forced labor as a porter carrying the army’s supplies. He has witnessed army brutality against fellow porters, especially those who are older or sick and unable to keep up with the group. He knew of the military’s brutality against nearby village leaders after the Chin pro-democracy group members passed through the village. He fled, not wanting to be part of an army known for its brutality against his people.

VE, a 26-year-old mother, has kidney problems likely due to drinking contaminated water for an extended period of time and sometimes faints from the pain.

While her husband does manual work in Saiha, she cannot work to support their family because of her pain. The local hospital referred her to Aizawl in order to get treated for her kidney problems, but she has no money to pay for the transportation there. When asked what she will do, she says she will continue to live with the pain because she cannot afford to get proper care. Her seven-month-old baby recently became very sick because she could not afford to buy proper medicine for him.


Your Reflections

While Mizoram is known in India for its natural beauty and high literacy rate, the state is less well known to people outside of India. Mizoram is a landlocked, mountainous state among the remote seven northeastern states of India. The northeastern states are connected to the rest of India by a narrow strip of land between Nepal to the north and Bangladesh to the south. Chins in Mizoram State have for the most part been out of sight and out of mind for the international community.

We have been moved by the courage, resourcefulness, and deep faith of the Chin people and encouraged by the compassion, hospitality, and deep faith of the people in Mizoram. Our hope is to be a catalyst for concerned governments, churches, and organizations to join together with them in good faith to address the protection and humanitarian challenges of the Chins in Mizoram and to reduce the humanitarian burden on Mizoram State and India.

A roundtable approach is solutions oriented. The people involved talk and listen to one another with openness and respect, come to know one another, build working relationships and trust, place challenges of mutual concern in the center of the table, and work toward a common understanding of those challenges, and of how to meet them together.

~ Adapted from Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India by Matthew Wilch, Zo Tum Hmung and Jenny Yang, with an introduction by Dan Kosten and Sam Worthington; photos by Steven Rubin. For further reading, please visit chinseekingrefuge.com


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Suggested Reading for Prayer

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

If one of your kinsmen in any community is in need in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand to him in his need.

Instead, you shall open your hand to him and freely lend him enough to meet his need.

Be on your guard lest, entertaining the mean thought that the seventh year, the year of relaxation, is near, you grudge help to your needy kinsman and give him nothing; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will be held guilty.

When you give to him, give freely and not with ill will; for the Lord, your God, will bless you for this in all your works and undertakings.

The needy will never be lacking in the land; that is why I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy kinsman in your country.