May 7, 2012

Briefings in Geneva, New York City and Washington, DC, for UNHCR, NGOs, U.S. House and Senate Staff, and U.S. AID

Since the release of the report Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India, its authors have shared the report's findings and recommendations with NGO, UNHCR, and U.S. government stakeholders through a series of briefings. The briefings also featured an exhibit of photos taken in Mizoram by photographer Steven Rubin, Assistant Professor of Art (Photography) at Penn State University, and the report photographer.

"A growing number of European and U.S. government and nongovernment groups are concerned about the protracted, urban refugee situation of the Chins in Mizoram State, India, and about the humanitarian burden on the host community," observed Matthew Wilch, lead author of the report. "In these briefings, the report has been a tool to stimulate discussions among these stakeholders that helps all of us to better understand the situation and seek solutions. We view these briefings as an important step in the roundtable process to address this complex situation."

"We want to thank all those who helped to arrange these briefings and all those who participated," concluded Zo Tum Hmung. "More and more government, NGO, and UNHCR leaders are coming to understand this crisis. We invite them to join us and the Chin community in seeking solutions together."

March 22, 2012 Briefing for UNHCR in Geneva

On March 22, Ralston Deffenbaugh, Assistant General Secretary of Lutheran World Federation, and Matthew Wilch, U.S. human rights attorney, and lead author/editor for Seeking Refuge: The Chin Seeking Refuge in Mizoram State, India, briefed Erika Feller, Assistant High Commission for Protection, and her staff at the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) in Geneva about the recently released report about the Chins' protection and humanitarian plight and Mizoram State's humanitarian burden as host community.

April 9, 2012 InterAction Sponsors DC Briefing

On April 9, InterAction, the leading U.S. based humanitarian relief and development network, sponsored a briefing about the report for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Washington, D.C. Panelists included Joel Charney, Vice-President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice for InterAction, Dan Kosten, Chair of Refugee Council and Senior Vice President of World Relief, and Matthew Wilch, JD, lead author/editor for the report, Zo Tum Hmung, MPA (Harvard Kennedy School), Chin community activist and report author/editor, and Jenny Yang, Director for Advocacy for Refugee and Immigration Programs for World Relief, and report author/editor.

April 27, 2012 Church World Service/Women's Refugee Commission Sponsor NYC Briefing

On April 27, Church World Service and Women's Refugee Commission sponsored a briefing for New York NGOs at the Church Center for the United Nations, New York, NY, about the newly released report with panelists Matthew Wilch, Zo Tum Hmung, and Jenny Yang.

April 30, 2012 Captial Hill Briefing for U.S. Senate Staff

On April 30, Dan Kosten, Matthew Wilch, Zo Tum Hmung, Jenny Yang, and Steven Rubin, the report photographer, provided a Capital Hill briefing for U.S. Senate staff concerned about the Chins seeking refuge in Mizoram.

May 3, 2012 Capital Hill Briefing for U.S. House Staff

On May 3, Dan Kosten, Matthew Wilch, Zo Tum Hmung, and Jenny Yang provided a Captial Hill briefing for U.S. House staff concerned about the Chins seeking refuge in Mizoram.

May 3, 2012 Briefing for U.S. AID

On May 3, Matthew Wilch, Zo Tum Hmung, and Jenny Yang briefed U.S. AID staff. Rev. Dr. C Duh Kam, Executive Minister for Chin Baptist Churches USA, was also among those who attended the briefing to communicate the deep concern of the Chin refugee community in the United States for the Chins seeking refuge in Mizoram State, India, and also for the Mizoram host community.

Mar 10, 2012

Successful National Press Club Launch of the New Report Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India

Since its March 6, 2012, release at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, many people are learning about the new report Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India.  Many more people now know about the protection and humanitarian challenges facing the Chin Christians from Burma seeking refuge in Mizoram State, India, the humanitarian burden that their forced migration has caused on Mizoram State and India, and a solutions-oriented approach for addressing both challenges through partnership and collaboration.

The event included a panel presentation by Dan Kosten, Chair, Refugee Council USA; Joel Charny, Vice-President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice, InterAction; Matthew Wilch, JD, human rights advocate, report lead author/editor; Zo Tum Hmung, MPA (Harvard Kennedy School) a Chin community activist, report author /editor; and Jenny Yang, Director for Advocacy and Policy, World Relief, report author/editor.  It also featured 17 photos by the report photographer Steven Rubin from the daily life of Chins and local people in Mizoram State, India. [See "The Report" and "The Photo Gallery" page for more of Steven's photos.] The supporting coalitions and sponsors--InterAction, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Refugee Council, USA, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Women's Refugee Commission, and World Relief--not only supported the event but helped to contact media to cover the release of the report and some also wrote press releases or related stories about the report for distribution or for their websites.

News of the release reached 15 of the major media outlets that cover Chin State and Burma, and Mizoram State and India;  10 U.S. national and regional media outlets; 19 faith-based and humanitarian nongovernmental media outlets and websites;  12 international business outlets; and many blogs and list serves among the Chin people. Fourteen distinct articles appeared on over 60 different sites.  A link to 12 of the articles is listed below and a list of sites on which they appeared is below that. There are also links to coverage by Voice of America TV, which broadcasts throughout India and Burma.  Thank you to Kitty Robinson, World Relief, and Jeffrey Hutson for helping to compile this media coverage. Two additional articles are in Mizo and will be posted soon in both the original Mizo and in English.  Please let Zo Tum Hmung or Matt Wilch know if you have seen coverage on additional sites (chinseekingrefuge@gmail.com).

Articles, TV

Chin Seeking Refuge, "Soon to be Released Report Highlights Plight of Ethnic Chin Christians from Burma," Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, March 1, 2012.  

Bill Davis, MA, MPH, “Chin Refugees Struggle in India,” Physicians for Human Rights, Tues., March 6, 2012.

Christian Fuchs (JRS), "Report Highlights Plight of Ethnic Chin Christians," Jesuit Refugee Service, Tues., March 6, 2012. 

Michael Hill, This Week on the Hill:  Week of March 5, 2012, "Briefing on the Plight of Ethnic Chin Seeking Refuge in India," MICEVHILL,  Mon., March 5, 2012.

Lalit K Jha, "U.S. NGOs Urge Refugee Status for Chins," The Irrawaddy, Thurs. March 8, 2012.

Malia Politzer (WSJ-L), Report Highlights Chin Refugees’ State,” The Wall Street Journal: Livemint.com, Tues., March 6, 2012.

Mizzima News, Chin Refugees in India Need International SupportMizzima News, Tues., March 2, 2012.

Press Trust of India, "U.S. Groups' Plea to India on Myanmar's Chin Refugees," Hindu Businessline, March 7, 2012.

Dibin Samuel, “India Urged to Protect Christian Chins Fleeing Burma,” Christian Today India, Tues., March 2, 2012.

Eric Sigmon (LIRS), “Report Highlights Plight of Ethnic Chins from Burma Seeking Refuge in India,” LIRS, Tues., March 6, 2012. 

Voice of America, Report Release Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India (You Tube Burmese); Zo Tum Hmung Interview Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India (English); Zo Tum Hmung Interview Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India (Burmese).

Michelle A. Vu,  Illegal Aliens or Refugees? 100,000 Burmese Chin Christians in IndiaThe Christian Post, Tues., March 6, 2012.

Jenny Yang, “Chin Refugees from Burma Seek Refuge in India,” World Relief , Tues., March 6, 2012.

 Media from India, Burma, and Asia

Aizawl Post, Asian Times News, Burmafm, Eastern Mirror, Hindu Businessline, Hindustan Times, India Business Review, India Times, Irrawaddy Magazine, Mizzima News, Northeast Today, Press Trust of India, Radio Free Asia, Shillong Times, Singlung, Zomi Daily, Voice of America TV News

U.S. National and Regional Media

AP Washington Daybook, Assist News, Bradenton Herald [FL], Cypress Times [FL], PR Newswire:  Public Interest Services, PR Newswire: U.S. Business, Reuters, Sacramento Bee [CA], Yahoo News, Wallstreet Journal Digital Network: Market Watch; and Wallstreet Journal: Live Mint

Faith-based and Humanitarian Media and Websites

Believers Radio, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Christian Today India, Faithful News, Persecution.Org, InterAction, Humanitarian News, Jesuit Refugee Service, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, MICEVHILL (USCCB), National Press Club, Physicians for Human Rights, Refugee Council USA, Unrepresented Nations and People's Organization, US Campaign for Burma, World Evangelical Alliance, World Relief

U.S. and International Business Media

African Business Review, Australia Business Review, Canada Business Review, Europe Business Review, Finance, Finanznachrichten, Findlaw, Markets Financial Contact, Personal Finance Magazine Moneylife,  syscon media, and USA Business Review.

Blogs

Burma Democratic Concern, Chronicle:  A Record of Times, CRC Malaysia, CRC New Delhi, Simete People, and Singlung.

Feb 29, 2012

Soon to be Released Report Highlights Plight of Ethnic Chin Christians from Burma Seeking Refuge in Mizoram, India

Chin Seeking Refuge

www.chinseekingrefuge.com

 For Release:    Immediately

February 29, 2012

Contacts: Matthew Wilch,   cell 443/310-4813, matt.wilch@gmail.com; Zo Tum Hmung,  cell 443/827-5392, zotumhmung@gmail.com

      Soon to be Released Report Highlights Plight of Ethnic Chin Christians from Burma

100,000 Chin People Seek Refuge in Mizoram State, India

Washington D.C. – In the soon to be released report Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India, the report authors and leading refugee and human rights experts, call on the central government of India and Mizoram State to respond to the protection and humanitarian crisis of up to 100,000 Chins from Chin State, Burma, who are seeking refuge in Mizoram State, India. The new report will be released at 9 a.m., Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Meanwhile, it  can be viewed online at www.chinseekingrefuge.com (the report is embargoed until the release event).

What:    Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India; Report Release and Panel Presentation (panelists available afterward for interviews)

When:    9:00-10:00 a.m., Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where:    National Press Club, Zenger Room, 13th Floor, 529 14th St NW, Washington, DC

Panelists: Joel Charny, Vice-President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice, InterAction; Dan Kosten, Chair, Refugee Council USA; Matthew Wilch, U.S. human rights lawyer, report lead author/editor; Zo Tum Hmung, Masters in Public Administration, Harvard Kennedy School, Chin community activist, report author /editor; Jenny Yang, Director for Advocacy and Policy, World Relief, report author/editor

Event Sponsors:  Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Women's Refugee Commission, and World Relief 

The 134-page report documents the protection and humanitarian challenges that the people of Chin State, Burma, face as they seek refuge in neighboring Mizoram State, India. They face serious problems related to protection, livelihood, health, and education. The report also describes how the Chins' forced migration burdens the host community of Mizoram and the Indian central government. The Chins seeking refuge make up almost 10% of Mizoram's population, which is 95% Christian. The Chins in Mizoram have been out of sight and out of mind for the international community because of long standing travel restrictions to the region and because UNHCR has had no access to Mizoram.

The delegation responsible for this report was only able to travel to the region and assess the protracted, urban refugee situation after the central government of India lifted the travel restrictions in December 2010.

"Our report shows that Chins from Burma face serious protection and humanitarian problems in Mizoram, India," said Matthew Wilch, a U.S. human rights lawyer and the lead author and editor of the report.  "They have no status or protection under the law and many suffer chronic economic insecurity, lacking adequate and stable shelter, food security, health, and education. Mizoram is burdened, too, by the large forced migration of Chin people. Addressing the Chin people's protection and humanitarian needs and reducing Mizoram's burden should be part of the larger discussion about Burma."

The Chins' forced migration from Burma has occurred continuously since the Burmese military took over in a military coup in 1962 and most heavily since the crackdown in 1988 against the pro-democracy movement in Burma. The abuses in Chin State, Burma, have included, among others, forced labor, torture, and religious persecution.  

"There has been a lot of attention on the possible political openings within Burma," observed Dan Kosten, Chair of Refugee Council, USA, a coalition of U.S. based refugee resettlement agencies and human rights groups concerned about refugees. "We urge that attention also be paid to the refugee protection crises for ethnic and religious minority groups like the Chins who have been forced to flee from Burma. This report describes why the Chins fled and what challenges they and their host community have as they seek refuge in Mizoram State, India."

"We are cautiously optimistic about Burma's move toward democracy," concluded Joel Charny, Vice-President for Humanitarian Policy and Practice of InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S. based international, nongovernmental, humanitarian aid and development organizations.  "But whatever long-term change comes to Burma, there are immediate protection and humanitarian crises for minority ethnic groups from Burma such as the 100,000 Chins in Mizoram State, India. The international community needs to heed this report, help the Chins, and partner with the host country of India to reduce their burden."

The report also calls upon the European Union, the United States, and other concerned countries, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nongovernmental organizations,  faith based groups, and the international community to partner with India and Mizoram State to protect the Chins in Mizoram and to reduce the humanitarian burden on Mizoram State and the host country of India. 

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This report is based on an assessment trip to India from April 7, 2011, to May 2, 2011, where the delegation not only conducted town hall meetings, focus groups, and individual interviews with the Chin church and community leaders in five districts across the state but also with the local government, community, and church leaders. The trip delegation included Matthew Wilch, JD, and Zo Tum Hmung (Masters in Public Administration, Harvard Kennedy School) a Chin community activist, who were funded by the Chin Baptist Churches USA; Jenny Yang, Director of Advocacy and Policy for the Refugee and Immigration Program of World Relief; Steven Rubin, professional photographer and Assistant Professor of Art, Pennsylvania State University, funded by Lutheran World Federation; Dr. Vijayakamar James, Director, and Polly Mondal, Monitoring Officer at the Program Department, Lutheran World Service India Trust; Dr. Prakash Louis, SJ, Jesuit Refugee Service South Asia Regional Director; and Rabindran Shelley, India Country Director, World Relief.

Statements of support for the report came from the following NGOs and faith based groups Baptist World Alliance, Chin Baptist Churches USA, Lutheran World Federation, U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops, Women's Refugee Commission, World Evangelical Alliance, and World Relief.