Violence in Manipur: Ethnic cleansing or religious cleansing?

By May 17, 2023

India (MNN) — In Manipur, India, over 2,500 homes of tribal Christians are now just frames and ashes. Meitei Hindus in northeast India began attacking tribal Christians two weeks ago in a horrific campaign of violence.

So far, at least 68 people have been killed and over 25,000 displaced — forced to flee while their houses and churches burned.

With different messages coming from various media outlets, people are asking is this an ethnic cleansing? Or a religious cleansing?

A ministry worker* with A3 (formerly Asian Access) says, “Personally, I feel it’s both. So it’s part of ethnic cleansing, but also it’s part of the Hindu fanatics propagating their religious views because Christians are considered to be one of the greatest enemies and they will try to destroy the strongholds of Christianity…. If it’s ethnic cleansing only, why do they have to burn 121 churches? To me, I think it’s more like two sides of the same coin.”

(Photo courtesy of Jakfoto Productions/Flickr:

The government cracked down on the conflict in some areas of Manipur. However, there are still flare-ups of violence, and even in areas where the unrest has calmed down, the tension is palpable. Some are already calling it a civil war and calling for the creation of a separate tribal state in northeast India.

Local Christians are offering urgent aid and Christ’s encouragement in refugee camps. The ministry worker says, “We are working on the short-term relief, but also they will require a long-term rehabilitation process.”

In the meantime, tribal Christians and even some Meitei Christians in Manipur are struggling with how to maintain their Gospel witness amidst a need for self-defense.

“One way to show that we are the disciples of Jesus Christ [is] by showing love to those who try to persecute or are, in fact, persecuting us and to pray for our enemies,” says the ministry worker.

“On the other hand, there’s also a justification that people have to arm themselves with arms, guns, and weapons because you never know when the militants or the other groups will come and attack their village and destroy them. So that will be a struggle.”

The power of prayer cannot be underestimated, especially in situations like this. The ministry worker asks, “Let’s pray for the strength and for endurance and perseverance of our Christian brothers and sisters, be it among the tribes but also, there are some Meitei Christians who are torn between the two. So let’s pray that our faith will not diminish, but rather, we will stand firm and strong in the Lord.”








*Name withheld for security.

Header photo courtesy of Jakfoto Productions/Flickr:

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