India (MNN) — Thousands of people evacuated, an internet blackout, and military orders to shoot on sight.
The Indian government is trying to stifle frightening violence that broke out last week in Manipur state, as majority Meitei Hindus attack local tribal Christians.
A Gospel worker* with a ministry partner in India says, “Up to this point, I’ve received reports of 44 churches being attacked, burned, or otherwise destroyed just in the last 48 hours; and numerous pastors’ residences and church members’ homes being destroyed.
“Four [churches] are from a close partner church denomination to us, and a number of them are churches that we have worked with at some time or another.
“A lot of the Christians are fleeing into the military camps if they are nearby, and in some villages, just going straight into the jungles.”
The Meitei want Scheduled Tribe status and additional benefits such as the right to farm on forest land, health and educational facilities, and a quota of government jobs.
However, tribal Christians say the Meitei already have enough power and privilege, and would further marginalize the minority Christian community.
Tribal groups make up about 40% of Manipur state’s 3.5 million population.
It all came to a head when the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur organized protests in the Churachandpur district, and the Meitei retaliated with violence.
Despite suffering targeted attacks, the ministry worker says, “There are areas where the Meiteis are in a minority in certain towns and villages, and Christians are protecting them from the others who may desire to harm them in further retaliation.
“One of our partners is already treating quite a number of these that have been attacked from both sides of this situation in their hospital.”
The ministry worker reflects, “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.
“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.”
Sadly, this story is not getting much national attention. “The Indian mainstream media is really downplaying this or not even running the story, or they are running it as a purely political issue of public protests, but it has really escalated into violence.”
Please be praying into this situation, for encouragement and strength for our Christian brothers and sisters in northeast India as they go into hiding.
The ministry worker says, “Overall, we need to pray that the Prince of Peace will prevail over this situation, that God will bring peace to the state of Manipur [and] that it will not inflame to neighboring states.
“Pray that the tribal Christians may be restrained. As they are seeing this tremendous loss of property and land and so many things, it is hard for them not to get angry in the situation. And we need to pray that they may not further retaliate and further escalate this situation. But they will respond in the love of Christ.”
*Name and ministry withheld for security.
Header photo of a church in India; representative. (Photo courtesy of Paul Silvan via Unsplash)