Kukiforum exclusive video interview with EFICOR Director

Published on October 23, 2004

Kukiforum exclusive video interview with EFICOR Director

Dino Touthang (Right) and KIF General Secretary Nehginpao Kipgen conversing on the socio-political developments in the Kuki societyOctober 24, 2004: Excerpt from Kukiforum exclusive video interview with Lunkhosei Touthang, also known as Dino L. Touthang, in Washington, DC, USA, on October 18, 2004 at 13:30 hours local time.

The interview which lasted for about 45 minutes captured scenes from humors to deep rooted thoughts. Dino is currently working for India based the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR) as General Director.

Kukiforum: At the very outset, the Kukiforum would like to say welcome to the United States, and it is our pleasure having you (compassionate smiles and handshake from the two). It is learned that prior to heading for the United States, you made stops in countries such as Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK). Could you update us on the sole purpose of your trip and itinerary?

Dino Touthang: I am honored to be interviewed by the leadership of the Kuki International Forum (KIF) and it is my pleasure to be here. As you indicated, I touched down at three different countries prior to entering the U.S. From October 7-8, I was in Driebegen, Netherlands (Holland) to meet our Tearfund friends, who are partners of EFICOR. I had an opportunity of being interviewed by a Dutch Christian magazine on subjects pertaining to my organization’s engagements and Christian organizations’ activities in India. From October 9-10, I was in the United Kingdom to meet our Tearfund UK partners. Taking advantage of the trip, I also visited Kuki friends in Southampton. On October 11, I was at the Geneva United Nations Office to attend the U.N. 2nd Preparatory Meeting for World Disaster Conference to be held at Koebe, Japan in January 2005. EFICOR is one of the accredited Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) invited to attend the conference. From October 14-15, I attended the Global Launch of Micah Challenge meeting at the United Nations Office, New York, USA. From October 19-22, I will be participating at the Micah Network Meetings as one of the executive members. This is a network of Christian Relief and Development organizations comprising of 270 members from around the world. Its purpose is structuring strategies on how Christian organizations can eradicate poverty. On October 23, I will be flown to Toronto, Canada, and will be heading back to New Delhi on November 2.

Kukiforum: Congratulations on being elevated to the position of General Director in EFICOR! We assume that the Kukis around the world would be curious to know what goals and objectives are your organization associated with. Elaborating your organization’s activities, has it ever had any initiatives specifically with respect to the Kuki people? If not, is EFICOR having a plan to do in the future?

Dino Touthang: My pleasure is for your nice compliment. EFICOR began in 1967 as a unit of Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), and has been involved in Relief & Rehabilitation, Community Organization & Development, Care and Training (Kukiforum was presented a copy of EFICOR Annual Report 2003-2004). The first organization’s work was helping the 1967 drought victims of Bihar State, India. It has been 14 years since I joined the EFICOR. In 2001 Gujarat earthquake, we helped build 700 houses worth of Indian Rupees 14 crores (1 crore = 10 million). We do also engage in Integrated Development Program (IDP) having approximately 25 projects across the globe. Presently, we have over 80 staff members. As our operational areas are mostly outside the northeast India, so far we have no specific activities undertaken for the Kukis. However, there are indirect benefits for the Kuki community. Some gifted Kuki youths are employed by EFICOR; few members of the Kuki Worship Service Delhi (KWSD) had a chance to participate as volunteers during relief works in Gujarat. Janakpuri EFICOR office is sometimes used by KWSD members for training purposes. At the time of KWSD decade’s celebration, EFICOR Guest House was used to lodge Kuki Churches’ leaders who came all the way down from home (Manipur & other places).

Kukiforum: We do compliment your commitments to the Kuki Worship Service Delhi (KWSD) and the contribution you have made to our society at large. Recalling your experiences, do you have the expectation of KWS bringing significant developments in religious circle? And based on your observation, are there KWS achievements that could be cited? What are its future plans?

Dino Touthang: Thanks for your nice words. The Kuki Worship Service (KWS) was first started in Shillong (when asked the established year, he wasn’t quite sure). KWSD was established in 1992. Today, we can see the rapid development of KWS in places like Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bangalore, Gujarat, Pune, and Hyderabad. During my 9 years as a Chaplain in KWSD, I personally see its positive outcomes – (i) It is a privilege to have fellowship among our own community socially and spiritually, citing examples of having prayer cells and camps (ii) There is no promotion of any particular denomination (iii) Student community gain spiritual strength which is instrumental in their academic learning (iv) Quite a good number of testimony sharing have acknowledged the benefits of KWSD (v) Meeting friends and socializing with others at a brief party after the Church service. At the KWSD decade’s celebration, a committee of All India KWS was elected with the ultimate purpose of bringing all KWS into a full fledged Fellowship. My humble request is that being the two largest KWSs, I would like to see Shillong KWS and Guwahati KWS initiating pioneering works. We have seen the fast growing denominations back home, creating divisions under different platforms. Looking at this development, it is the KWS that brings us together regardless of our affiliated denominations and churches. I am absolutely convinced that KWS is beneficial to the Kuki community for now and the years to come.

Kukiforum: Believe it or not, many consider you as one of the prides of our younger generation. Accepting that you are one, what words do you have to encourage the youths of today? It would be appreciating if your points are categorized into local or regional, national and international perspectives.

Dino Touthang: Do not give up in life! I would like to summarize my words of encouragement to our inspiring youths of today with a few points – (i) Overcome laziness by concentrating on your study (ii) We should be fully committed and dedicated to whatsoever our professions are (iii) Seek God at the first place (iv) Do not forget your roots (v) Take advantage of your togetherness with peoples from other community or nationality. Everyone in our community can’t become an IAS or a minister. We should be prepared for professions such as clerk, entrepreneurship or other businesses.  Seeking God doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a pastor. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” quoting from the Bible. It is sad to see some of our officers and capable people being ashamed of exposing their identity and ignoring their dearest parents. By saying this, it should not be construed in the way that we should only love our clan or tribe, which could be detrimental to the unity of our society. As a student, one should learn to live with peoples from outside of his own community. Always valuing our identity, we should also learn the concept of “Multiple Identity.” Commitment and perseverance is essential in all our endeavors.

Kukiforum: Convincing with the need of having international platform for raising the issues of the Kuki people, the Kuki International Forum was formed in 2002 after a painstaking deliberation by the Kukis living in the United States of America. With its formation, the KIF leadership has been unflaggingly building relationship with different individuals, leaders and organizations across the globe. Our patriotic services are advocated in conjunction with the objectives and goals of the forum – (i) To safeguard and promote the cultural heritages of the Kukis around the world (ii) To uphold peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding with other nations (iii) To educate and preserve the KUKIS’ national identity (iv) To represent the issues of the KUKIS. Keeping in mind the above mentioned points, what is your perception and observation on the birth of KIF? In addition to your own, comments from people back home may be added.

Dino Touthang: Many thanks on the formation of the Kuki International Forum (KIF). I am proud of it. www.kukiforum.com is one of the websites that I regularly and frequently visited. The KIF’s activities in the past few years have been very commendable.  In today’s world, people know about someone when there is something to see and read about. Our issues needed to be internationalized by informing the world who we are. The KIF objectives and goals are well established and encouraging. Displaying our traditional attires and airing songs and video clips could be time consuming, but is a commendable input. Kuki Forum should not only be a forum to expose ourselves to the international community, but also a common platform for our own people. Exchanging of views and opinions among ourselves is also important toward nation building. Sometimes, some individual mails are not only provocative, but annoying. However, “we should allow space for those individuals too.” When one visits this website, he comes to know what our cultures and political aspirations are. One important suggestion I would like to make is that “there should be coordination between initiatives taken by the KIF’s leadership and our people back at home.” In this regard, I have seen the perseverance, determination and altruism of the KIF leadership despite encountering numerous obstacles. I am confident and optimistic that the KIF would bring more laurels to the nation and many more achievements in the years ahead.

Kukiforum: In conclusion, believing that many would like to hear your life’s history and other commitments you have had, could you take your time to narrate them?

Dino Touthang: Relaxing from deep rooted thoughts, Dino began by saying “I was not a good guy during my school days (the two laughs….).” I was brought up in Lamka (Churachandpur) town in Manipur, Northeast India. “I was expelled from 4 or 5 schools in spite of my best academic performance.” I passed my metric exam in 1974 from Sielmat High School; B.A. History Honors in 1978 and M.A. History Honors in 1980 from Shillong. My primary goal was to write civil services examinations and become a reputable officer. However, when I was in my M.A. previous year, I was touched by God’s words through Rev. Khaizakham, which entirely changed my ambition from becoming an officer to serving the Lord. I finished Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) from Poona (now Pune), Maharashtra. I married Darry, my wifie, in 1987 and went for 5 years’ evangelism works in Madhya Pradesh state. From 1994-1995, I did a research in Oxford University, England, and simultaneously, served as Anglican Associate Pastor. Since my college days, I love football (Americans say soccer), promoting culture and identity. I used to play soccer in Shillong First Division Club. “It is deplorable to see that many of our youngsters end up their soccer games in bars.” Finally, although I originally had my own choice, it is God who takes me to where I am today. “Committing ourselves to God’s call is producing marvelous results.” By His grace, I have traveled to a number of countries and this is my third trip to the U.S.

Kukiforum: Many thanks for the invaluable time you have spent with us in responding these questions. We wish you good luck and good health to the rest of your journey. Let us hope to meet again in your next trip. Convey our best regards to our people wherever you may meet them!

Wrapping up the interview with yet another smile and handshake, the interviewee was seen off for his New York meeting.