By Todd Travis
Calling the Southside home
The Southside of Indianapolis has become home for many of the Chin people who have come to the United States seeking refuge from persecution they face in their homeland of Burma (also called Myanmar.) Twenty years ago, the Chin Community of Indiana was started by a group of students who wanted to support one another in a foreign land. At that time, it was a matter of survival for the group since they were just learning the language and finding employment.
Today, the organization has grown and evolved into a resource that provides support for more than 10,000 Chin people each year. Working alongside the Chin churches who look after spiritual needs, CCI looks to provide for human needs such as social issues, legal issues and family issues.
The Chin people are a minority in their home country of Burma, which is located in the western portion of Southeast Asia.
“Our people are marginalized in Burma due to our ethnicity and our Christian beliefs,” said Peter Thawnghmung, president of the Chin Community of Indiana. “I experienced this myself – the military government has all kinds of policies and practices that discriminate against the Chin, even today. Employment opportunities are limited and child labor is a big problem. On top of that, we weren’t allowed to build churches, or even put up a cross in our own land.”
For these reasons, many of the Chin people have fled their homeland to find more freedom religiously and economically.
Building and growing together
While there is still a long way to go, CCI is celebrating the strides they have made over the last 20 years in making a safe and stable community for the Chin people living in Indianapolis.
“Some of the first Chin people who came to Indianapolis were very good business people and they started opening businesses like Chin Brother’s Restaurant and many of the grocery stores around the area,” Thawnghmung said. “With a focus on education and hard work, the Chin people began to become more economically stable. As a result, we began to buy homes and boost the economy on the Southside. With this growth, we have also been able to send money back home as well to help family members who are still living in Burma. I’m counting on this growth to continue as people continue to work hard and contribute to the success of the Southside community.”
The 20-year anniversary will take place on July 23 from 4 to 9 p.m. at Southport High School.
“It’s going to be like a big birthday party,” said Thawnghmung. “We’re especially grateful this year because Covid was so difficult for us. We were about two months from shutting down due to the pandemic. But God blessed us – we were able to make connections with local businesses who have sponsored us and given us money to help continue our work. We’ve also continued to receive support from Marion County Health Department and the Indianapolis Rotary Club. This blessing came just in time to celebrate our 20 year anniversary.”
The event will include entertainers, musicians and games for children.
“Everyone is invited. It’s like a birthday party for the whole community, not just the Chin people. We’re thankful for the Perry School system and their support. We’re lucky to have Southport High School to host this event,” Thawnghmung concluded.
For more information about CCI visit chincommunity.org or their Facebook page facebook.com/chincommunityIN/?ref=page_internal