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Manipur Christian Leader Raises Concern Regarding Continuous Village Burning in North-East India

A wave of ethnically-driven church destructions and village burnings continues to wreak havoc in the north-eastern state of Manipur, India, according to a regional Christian leader. 

The leader, known as ‘Mang’ for his safety, revealed in an interview with Premier Christian Radio that the violence persists, with at least two or three tribal villages being burned down as recently as yesterday.

Mang expressed his concern over the deteriorating situation, stating that the affected people lack the means to defend themselves. “This is the situation we are in, so scary and not safe,” he lamented. He further described the distressing reality of living in fear, explaining how they must remain vigilant throughout the night, ready to flee and safeguard important documents. “Home is the jungle at night,” he added, highlighting the desperate circumstances faced by the targeted communities.

A recent ADF report highlights a distressing situation where a significant number of individuals, labeled as extremists, assembled at church premises and resorted to destructive acts such as setting fire to buildings, furniture, and equipment.

The report, drafted by legal professionals, also indicates instances where petrol bombs were deployed. As a result of this violence, the state authorities estimate that around 45,000 individuals have been displaced, and church associations report the destruction of over a hundred villages.

The root cause of this outbreak of violence can be traced back to a rally held on May 3rd. The rally was organized by students primarily belonging to the Christian Kuki tribe, who aimed to voice their opposition against initiatives aimed at granting employment and education benefits to the predominantly Hindu Meiteis.

“I was there when the violence started, on May third of this year”, Mang told Premier. “In fact, it was not so far from where I live. Within the first three nights and three days, most of the tribal people, religious churches, institutions, including both those in the capital city of Manipur, Imphal, were burned down with no one to protect the people”, he said.

“I was scared and many people had lost their life”, Mang explained. “I’ve seen my own eyes and I’ve seen how people fled from their homes”. According to Mang, who is a Kuki, the state authorities played a part in the killings and attacks on Christian villages.

“Three of my relatives, distant relatives, were shot by the police”, he said. “A few days after the violence broke out, we were told that the central army was coming”, he continued “so we were really hoping that things would improve, if not stop. But we didn’t see much difference in reality”, he said.

“It’s no longer possible to meet in churches as a group. But churches have been used as relief camps… And due to the internet being set down, [there’s] no way to communicate, no way to comfort people”, he explained. “Prayers have been conducted almost day and night,” he concluded.

The ethnic-driven church destructions and village burnings in Manipur have raised serious concerns about the safety and security of religious minorities in the region. The attacks, believed to be targeting Christian communities, have led to the displacement and suffering of countless individuals.

The closure of internet services by the authorities further exacerbates the difficulties faced by the affected communities. With limited communication channels, verifying information and coordinating relief efforts become arduous tasks, hindering the provision of immediate assistance to those in need.

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