Refugees

Refugees

When we see the Chin refugees from Burma in our community, stocking shelves at HEB or cleaning floors at Wal-Mart, we often don’t stop to think about where they have come from.  According to a report by Human Rights Watch (quoted in a 2010 BBC article), the Chin people have faced “forced labour, torture, rape, arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial killings as part of a Burmese government policy to suppress the Chin people and their ethnic identity.”

Over 90 percent Christian, the Chin face religious persecution as well. According to a US State Department report, “Burmese troops and officials have tried to forcibly convert the Chin from Christianity to Buddhism. They have also destroyed churches, and arrested and even killed Christian Chin clergy, who now often work undercover.”  In addition to religious and ethnic persecution, the Chin have faced acute food shortages and no medical care. 

Fleeing these conditions has taken the Chin refugees first to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and then to the United States.  Ultimately, they come to Midland, Texas because of the abundance of jobs.  While work is readily available, many of the women are isolated at home by themselves for long hours, left alone caring for small children and nursing painful memories.  Can you imagine the loneliness?  The trauma, fear, and the confusion they face when they arrive in this West Texas community?  Can you imagine trying to make your own way in a new country where you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the local customs? 

After meeting some of the women in the local Chin community, we knew we wanted to get more involved.  In addition to building friendships, we wanted to help them in a practical way as well.  We launched the Scarlet Threads Chin Collection to provide Burmese Chin refugee women with supplemental income, marketable skills, and a growing sense of belonging right here in our community.

Right now, handmade items in the Chin Collection are only available through custom orders placed at home parties.  However, you can purchase cause tee shirts to support our endeavor.  Half of the proceeds go to meet needs in our local Chin community, and the other half helps Scarlet Threads with the start-up expenses associated with launching the Chin Collection.  Featuring hand-drawn graphics and clever quotes from Shakespeare and Thoreau, these adorable shirts not only are great conversation starters, but they honor the ferocity of spirit and willingness to sacrifice for freedom that we see in our Burmese friends every day.

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Scarlet Threads connects you with artisans around the world, bringing handmade goods from their homes to yours.

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