50 Churches Torched, Christians Among 35K Fleeing Violence in Northeast India
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A violent uprising in the northeastern part of India has left 60 people dead, at least 50 churches burned down, internet blackouts, and orders for military personnel to shoot on sight.
Christians are caught in the crosshairs of ongoing violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities in Manipur.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers from the Army and the Assam Rifles have been deployed in Manipur and 35,000 people have been evacuated to safe shelters, according to the Indian news site Scroll.In.
According to the news outlet, the violence first erupted in the state last Wednesday after thousands participated in a protest march organized by the All Tribal Students' Union of Manipur to oppose the demand of the majority Meitei community receiving benefits, including the right to farm on forest land, cheap bank loans, and health and educational facilities, as well as a specified quota of government jobs.
More than 60 people have died. Some reports claim that many of those who have died are Christians.
Mission News Network reports, Meitei Hindus attacked local tribal Christians and other sources maintain the group is being backed by the Hindu nationalist government.
"It is with deep concern that we note the resurgence of the targeting and persecution of Christians in the peaceful state of Manipur in the North East, where the Christian population comprises 41%. We have received reports that three churches built in 1974 and some houses have been set on fire, and the people have been forced to flee to safer places," Reverend Dr. Peter Machado, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bengaluru, told Indian Express.
"It is reported that around seventeen churches are either vandalized, desecrated, or defiled. Many are still burning. We hope and pray that the situation will be brought under control, and peace and confidence will be restored to the people of Manipur," he added.
Many believers are seeking refuge in neighboring states such as Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Nagaland, where Christians are in the majority.
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"Churches are being attacked in such a way that it's just hard not to see this as Hindu versus Christian violence — just an extension of what's happening across India," one ministry aid worker told Mission News Network.
As CBN News has reported, Over the past seven years, India has gone from number 31 to number 10 on Open Doors' World Watch List of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. The majority of attacks happened under the Hindu-led BJP government of Narendra Modi.
"We've seen oppression and persecution (and) attacks like this in other states like Chattisgarh and, of course, some years back in Orissa…. The fanatic in Hindu forces and groups feel that support of the government — whether state, local, or national — in taking this type of action against Christians," shared the aid worker.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report last Monday and called on the State Department to add India to its Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.
"We are baffled at how bad state actors such as India and Nigeria can escape CPC designation by the State Department. USCIRF's well-documented report – and our own reports and findings – highlights the atrocities taking place in those countries," said International Christian Concern (ICC) President Jeff King.
Meanwhile, faith leaders in India are calling for an end to the violent uprising, while security forces work to keep the peace.
"We call upon all parties involved 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 polarization," reads a statement by the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
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