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Singers Honored for Humanitarian Contributions

25 January 2010 (Chinland Guardian): A group of Chin singers participating in the concert tours raising awareness and fund for the last two years for hunger victims in Burma’s Chin State were honored by a grateful Chin community in the United States.

At a special event organized in appreciation of the singers’ contributions on 16 January, a troupe of Chin artists were bestowed certificates of appreciation in recognition of their humanitarian efforts towards alleviating hunger and poverty in Chin State.

The award recipients included Sung Tin Par, Burma’s top celebrated singer who was conferred the ‘Humanitarian Goodwill Ambassador for the Chins,” as well as, Cung Lian Thawng, Dawt Hlei Hniang, Malsawmtluangi, Mang Tin Sawn aka Solomon Menrihai, Mimi Lalzamliani, San Pi, Za Tawn Eng aka Salai Tawna and Zamnu, many of whom were awarded in absentia.

In conferring the awards, the Indianapolis Chin Community (ICC) Chairman Salai Za Bik appreciated the singers for their selfless humanitarian contribution: “These certificates are just mere documents written on a piece of paper, they cannot adequately represent the gratitude and appreciation written on the hearts of the Chin people.” On behalf of a grateful community, he acknowledged the time, energy and talents contributed by the artistes in raising much-need awareness and funds towards the relief effort in Burma’s poorest and most neglected region.

Speaking at the award-giving ceremony, Rev. Thawngling of Indianapolis-based Chin Evangelical Baptist Church (CEBC) talked about how grateful the Chin community is for the contribution of the Chin artistes.

“The circumstances under which we are gathered here tonight might not be for good news, but this occasion tells us that we the Chins rose to meet the challenges facing us.”

A senior pastor of CEBC, the official sponsor of the concert tours in the US, Rev. Thawngling also remarked in his speech that up to 82 percent of the farmland in some areas of Chin State have been destroyed and a large number of people are struggling to survive with severe malnutrition, disease, and death, prompting thousands of Chin people to flee their villages to look for food elsewhere.

Salai Elaisa Vahnie, Coordinator of Chin Food Aid Concert in USA, stressed in his speech: “This is the first time in history that we, the Chin people – various organizations, Churches, communities and individuals – inside and outside the country have come together and worked together to achieve the common and joint goals for our people. As we have always emphasized the importance of the inclusiveness and joint effort, today we have proved to ourselves and to the world that we can actually accomplish it.”

“This is only the begining. We will not quit nor stop, but will continue to lobby the international community for the food security and alternative livelihood of the Chin people in Chinland,” said the graduate student of Indiana University – Bloomington as he thanked each of the concert organizing committees in different cities of the USA for their generous contributions to the success of these historic events.”

The two-month long concerts in the United States is part of a series of Chin Food Aid Concerts since 2008 that have been organized in collaboration with Chin communities in various countries including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Germany where the Chin artists have performed tirelessly in attempts to raise awareness and fund for victims of the ongoing Mautam food crisis.

In the United States, the Chin Food Aid Concerts have been successfully organized in Dallas, TX, Battle Creek, MI, San Francisco and Los Ageles, CA, Indianapolis, IN, Washington DC, Chapel Hill, NC and the other two concerts are to be held in New York City and West Palm Beach, Florida on 24 and 29 January respectively.

The Indianapolis ceremony, also attended by guests and representives from Dallas, Texas; Washington DC and Canada including Chairman of Dallas CYO (Chin Youth Organisation) and Chairman of Chin Christian Fellowship of Canada, has been seen as one of the most significant events for the Chin people in the wake of mautam food crisis. Chin Community of Indianapolis (CCI) is said to be the biggest Chin community outside Burma, with an estimated number of more than 4,000 living in the 14th largest city in the US.

Photo Exhibition Showcased Chin Crisis

In parallel with the ceremony, a special photo exhibit highlighting the continuing humanitarian crisis in Chin State was organized. Inaugurated by Pu Lian Uk MP and commissioned by Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), the exhibit showcased picture documentation of the faces and voices of Chin civilians suffering from hunger in Chin State.

Victor Biak Lian of CHRO, who was intimately involved in initiating and coordinating the concerts, made a presentation on the humanitarian crisis.

Continuing Food Crisis

Chin State, located on Burma’s western frontiers, and already the poorest State in the country, is currently suffering from a food crisis caused by a natural disaster. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), malnutrition among children in Chin State is higher than that of the national average. Since 2007, Chin State has been plagued by an infestation of rats resulting from a natural cycle of the flowering and fruiting of an indigenous species of bamboo growing on nearly a quarter of the lands in Chin State.

Relying primarily on the local food source produced from shifting cultivation,  the Chin people have been suffering from the destruction of food crops due to the rat infestation that has caused a famine-like situation in Chin State in the past two years. According to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), nearly a quarter of the population of Chin State is suffering from severe shortage of food with an immediate need of emergency relief assistance.

In recent months, there have been fresh reports exposing a serious continuation of the bamboo-and-rat-related food crisis, especially in Southern Chin State and the negative consequences of mautam facing the Chin people more severely in remote areas which have not been reached by relief assistance.

WFP Extends Relief Programs

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) is set to extend its program in Chin State in 2010. The primary relief agency providing relief in Chin State, the WFP operates in the area with funding from the Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), as well as from the government of Denmark. But UN agencies working in Burma have admitted that official restrictions, as well as accessibility difficulties are limiting their operation.

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