Experience the culture

2022 Chin National Day celebrations include never-before-seen entertainment, with an ever-increasing call for unity

By Nicole Davis

Chin National Day is a way to honor the Chin culture, literature, customs and history. This year, there is an even greater calling for increased nationalism, unity and democracy for the country of Myanmar.

The 74th Chin National Day will take place Saturday, Feb. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Chin Evangelical Baptist Church, 5610 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis.

“We hope our neighbors will come join us,” said Peter Thawnghmung, president of the Chin Community of Indiana (CCI). “Chin National Day is not just for Chin people. We share our love for our neighbors and our heritage with everyone around us. We’ll have all kinds of entertainment from singing and dancing. People will have a really good feel of our culture.”

Thawnghmung said the event committee is taking greater input from its youth group – those  college age through mid-30s – this year to enhance the celebrations. Feedback from this group included a desire for shorter speeches and new music and entertainment, all of which was considered when planning this year’s celebration. Attendees are also encouraged to bring cash to try some of the traditional Chin cuisines that will be for sale. The event will also be shown live on the CCI Facebook page.

(Submitted photos)

History of Chin National Day

Each year, the Chin communities throughout the world celebrate Chin National Day to recognize and commemorate the General Assembly of Chinland event, which was held in Falam on Feb. 20, 1948. At the assembly, 5,000 representatives voted to overturn their traditional system and elect local and state leaders as a democracy. The Chin Affairs Council decided to officially honor the day in 1951, yet the holiday was not recognized by Myanmar governments until the 2010s.

The Chin community originates from Chinland, which is located on the northwestern portion of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Chins have been widely discriminated and suppressed by the ruling Myanmar military government for decades. For the past two decades, thousands of Chins have escaped from Chinland and Myanmar and entered host countries, including the U.S., as political refugees.

The situation in Myanmar has gotten worse for its citizens, especially for those in the Chin state, since Feb. 1, 2021, when the military seized power following a general election in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide. Those who oppose the new military government now face violent reprisal.

Calling for unity

Those who attend or watch the livestream of Chin National Day will experience a heightened sense of nationalism, Thawnghmung said.

“The Chin State in particular is being attacked, our villages are being ransacked and thousands of homes are being burnt down, he said. “We’re angry, to say the least. …A lot of people died from the war, as well as from lack of prevention available for COVID, hospitals are being used for military personnel, camping. The vaccine can’t get to them and if there was a vaccine, the military took them all. So we suffer both from the military, as well as a lack of treatment from COVID.”

Thawnghmung said there are now close to 30,000 Chin residents now living on the Southside of Indianapolis, and many of their relatives and friends have suffered.

Thawnghmung said they are looking forward to two special speakers, one from a leader of the United States Chin Coalition Group and a video speech by a Chin leader of the National Unity Government. The NUG was formed by a group of elected lawmakers and members of parliament ousted in the 2021 coup.

“It brings a lot of emotion,” Thawnghmung said. “Right now, we’re not only upset and sad, but we’re angry. There’s a lot of people that lives are affected by this. This is the time we are going to pray for them and give them more energy. We want to say it out loud, let our friends and our neighbors know what we’re going through.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/chincommunityIN.