Christian groups, alarmed by church attacks in Manipur, urge Centre to start talks

With churches being vandalised, burnt and desecrated in clashes largely between Kuki-Zomi tribals and the Meitei community in Manipur, Christian leaders say government must ensure peace, security and freedom of religion

May 05, 2023 10:47 pm | Updated 10:47 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Army and Assam Rifles personnel conduct a flag march in violence-hit areas amid tribal groups’ protest over court order on Scheduled Tribe status, Manipur on May 5, 2023.

Army and Assam Rifles personnel conduct a flag march in violence-hit areas amid tribal groups’ protest over court order on Scheduled Tribe status, Manipur on May 5, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Leading Indian Christian organisations have called on the government to start a dialogue to restore peace and normalcy in Manipur. “We are deeply saddened by the recent events that have unfolded in Manipur. We appeal to the State and the Union government to engage in constructive dialogue with all stakeholders to address the underlying causes of the conflict,” Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said in a statement.

“There is no internet in the region. While the Kukis and other tribals in the districts close to Imphal are the main targets as a community, the churches targeted include those of the Christians in the Meitei community. The Christians in the State are in shock, so are the rest of us across India. This arson and killing is almost on the scale of Kandhamal in Orissa in 2008,” All India Catholic Union spokesman John Dayal said.

‘Community insecure’

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Archbishop of Bangalore Peter Machado expressed concern that “seventeen churches are either vandalised, desecrated or defiled. Some are still burning.” The attacks on churches in Manipur, which started on Wednesday, continued unabated till Friday.

“It is distressing to hear that despite having a sizable Christian population in the State, the community is being made to feel insecure. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the freedom of religion, especially as the people have entrusted the party [BJP] with power. We offer our solidarity with the distressed and displaced,” Dr. Machado added.

‘Restore peace’

Mourning the loss of life and property and condemning the burning of multiple churches, the EFI has called for peace, and an end to the violence in the region. “We urge the government to take immediate measures to restore peace and ensure the safety and security of all its citizens,” Mr. Lal said, adding, “We stand for the values of love, peace, and justice. We believe that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The recent incidents of violence go against these values and have caused great harm to the people of Manipur.”

The Christian organisation also called upon all parties to exercise restraint and work towards a peaceful resolution of the issues. “We urge the people of Manipur to avoid forces that instigate division and cause polarisation,” Mr. Lal said.

The Catholics Bishops Conference of India is yet to issue a formal statement on the violence.

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