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INDIA: CHRISTIANS KILLED AND CHURCHES BURNED

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At least 17 Christians have been killed, and hundreds of churches and other Christian buildings destroyed, in ethno-religious violence between ethnic groups in Manipur State in north east India.

More than 15,000 people, including many Christians, have been forced to flee their homes and are living in rescue camps. Some footage of the violence and arson has been shared via Open Doors local contacts.

“The situation is gruesome,” says Neha*, a partner with Open Doors in India. “Houses and properties are still burning. We are asking the Government of India to publicly condemn acts of violence such as this against Christian minorities in India.”

Christians evicted from their land

The violence first flared up last Wednesday, 3 May, following a peaceful protest by the largely Christian minority tribes in the region.

“For two, three days, it was just anarchy,” says Vishnu*, another local Open Doors partner. “And especially the Christians were targeted. Almost all the churches have been burned down and reduced to ashes.”

As Vishnu explains, “The fundamental reason for the escalation of violence was that the tribals, who are predominantly Christian, are being evicted [by the local government] from the forest land where they’ve resided for hundreds of years.” Their concerns have been exacerbated by signs that the Government is preparing to grant the Meitei majority ‘scheduled tribe’ status. This has been granted to minority tribes in the region and has helped to counter the power imbalance between the Meitei and other tribes – and would make it harder for the Christian community to get jobs and other benefits.

A screenshot from footage of violence in Manipur, where Christians have been particularly targeted

Protest met with violence

“The Christian community was making a peaceful protest, but it was met with a violent response from the majority community,” says Vishnu. The majority he refers to are Hindus from the Meitei community; Christian demonstrators and onlookers complain that the police failed to intervene and protect them during the worst of the attack. Among the destroyed buildings are churches, Christian homes and a theological seminary. While the violence hasn’t exclusively targeted Christians, they are bearing the worst of the persecution.

The situation was eventually brought under control by paramilitary troops on Friday morning – in Vishnu’s view, because there was little left to destroy. Though the situation is currently calm, there are fears that it could reignite and escalate.

Thousands of Christians are among those who are currently finding safety in camps protected by the army. “People are taking shelter, afraid to return home,” says Neha. “That is, if their home hasn’t already been destroyed.”

“Almost all the churches have been burned down and reduced to ashes.”

VISHNU

How you can pray

Vishnu asks you to join the local community in prayer. He says: “Please, please keep praying for the Christians. They have had to abandon their houses and run to safe places. Most of them are in the area which is protected by the army, or some of them are secretly hiding in their friend’s house who belongs to majority community. We don’t know when they will come by, so please pray for them. There are children, women, old people – their lives are uncertain, and they’re deprived of basic facilities and amenities and deeply traumatised. So kindly remember them.”

PRAY NOW...
1

For the tribal Christian refugees who are taking shelter in the refugee camp as their houses are burned and destroyed

3

For peace in the affected areas as the clashes are turning into religious persecution.

2

For the Christian families whose members have been killed in the violence

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