India: Christians reel from persecution

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. … Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:6, 10)

Christians in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur are reeling from a new wave of persecution that swept the area last month. Violent mobs have destroyed 1,700 houses and burnt down 121 churches and buildings belonging to 15 denominations in one of the worst targeted attacks on Christians in the state.

The violence in Manipur, which began on 3 May, has led to thousands of people, mostly Christians, fleeing their homes and businesses. The violence has claimed more than 75 lives and wounded at least 200 people. Residents of Manipur said there was a breakdown of law and order as the mobs went on a rampage. They added that the attacks were systematic and well planned. The government has blocked all Internet connections across the state, including mobile data and broadband services, allegedly to stop the “spread of disinformation and false rumours.” Shops, schools, and offices are closed.

The head of the Catholic Church in Manipur, Archbishop Dominic Lumon, has appealed for aid for more than 45,000 people who are living in relief camps at Imphal Valley and the surrounding hills.

Christians in India have written an open letter to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India to express concern about the lukewarm response from the government to the attacks in Manipur: “At this crucial juncture, the Church cannot be silent or cannot appear to be supportive of the anti-people government; it has to play a prophetic role.” They ask church leaders to rise to the occasion and “prove themselves to be good shepherds who do not run away when the wolf comes to attack the sheep.”

According to the Census of India 2011, Christians form 41 percent of Manipur’s population of 3 million, while Hindus account for 41 percent, Muslims 8 percent, and other religions 9 percent. The violence began when a tribe that is 90 percent Christian was targeted by a politically dominant tribe that is mostly Hindu.

Home Group Prayer

Dear Lord and Father,

We lift up the believers in Manipur to you. Many have lost their homes and businesses, and are traumatized by the loss and violence they have lived through. Please give them a double portion of your Spirit, that they may be sustained in their faith, and in the tribulation that has been inflicted upon them for the sake of following you. We ask for provision of food and shelter for them, for comfort as their voices go unheard by the government, and for families to remain together. Lord, we ask that the government and other agencies be moved to take strong action on their behalf, and that we will continue to lift our brothers and sisters up in prayer. We pray that the displaced will find a sense of belonging, and not feel targeted and victimized, and that in their distress they will sense your nearness and your presence powerfully. You are close to the broken-hearted. May they sense your love especially at this time of terrible need, and know that they are not alone. May they know very clearly and practically that their help comes from you and that your promise never to leave or forsake them is their source of hope.

We lift our displaced brothers and sisters in Manipur to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.