People protest to demand resolving ongoing conflict in Manipur People protest to demand resolving ongoing conflict in Manipur  (ANSA)

Church in India to observe a national day of prayer for peace in Manipur

As sectarian violence continues in Manipur, the Catholic bishops of India call for a special day of prayer for peace in the riot-hit Indian state.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Catholic Church of India has called for a national day of prayer on Sunday, July 2, to end the ongoing sectarian violence in Manipur.

Over 100 dead and 50,000 displaced by ongoing violence

The violence erupted in the north-eastern Indian state on May 3, when Hindu-majority Meitei people, who control the local political power and represent or 53 percent of its  population,  attacked a demonstration of Kuki tribals, who are mainly Christians, protesting against a court proposal to extend the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meitei.

The special status grants priority in government jobs, education, and other affirmative programs meant for the indigenous people, such as the Kuki. 

Nearly two months since the outbreak of the violence, which so far has claimed over 100 lives and displaced more than 50,000 people, mostly Kuki Christians, unrest hasn’t yet subsided.

This has been confirmed in recent days by Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal, in a letter addressed to Indian bishops updating them on the latest developments. According to the prelate, clashes continue unabated, notably in the outlying areas of the region’s valley, while the State has lost control of the situation on the ground. Houses and villages have been torched and looted, places of worship desecrated and set on fire. The Catholic Church in Manipur, incurred an overall loss of an estimated 250 million rupees (some US$3.1 million)

A Catholic official seeking anonymity further confirmed to UCA News agency that abandoned houses of displaced Christians continue to be burnt down.

The Manipur government, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has responded to the crisis by suspending internet services to avoid circulation of hate speeches and rumours through various social media platforms. The measure was extended on June 19. 

The Day of prayer

In the face of the ongoing violence the president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI), Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur, has directed the faithful to observe July 2 a day of prayer for peace in Manipur.

In his message the Archbishop provides some suggestions to make the day significant. They include adding special intentions for peace and harmony to the Prayers of the Faithful during Mass, and organizing an hour of Adoration in all parishes to intercede for the people of Manipur.

The CBCI also asks the faithful to organize candlelight processions or peace rallies. Another suggestion is to join like-minded people and organizations that share the Church’s vision of peace so that their common efforts for building an environment of harmony and understanding can have a greater impact.

Commenting to AsiaNews on these solidarity initiatives, Archbishop Lumon said that despite several interfaith meetings, “no solution is in sight at the moment”, and that “only prayers can help”. 

PM Modi urged to break silence over the sectarian violence

Meanwhile, as the ongoing tension forces thousands to live in temporary camps, over 550 civil society groups have urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence over the sectarian violence. In a letter addressed to Modi on June 16 hey called for “an immediate stop to divisive politics by the state and security forces.” The letter asked the BJP Prime Minister “to break his deafening silence on the ongoing civil war in the hills and valleys of Manipur and for an immediate halt to this violence that is causing large scale disruption of lives, livelihoods and properties and unleashing even more terror among people.”

Sonia Gandhi, former president of the Indian Congress Party, has also joined in calling for peace and an end communal violence in Manipur. In a video message shared by the Congress on social media last week, the political leader expressed “sadness” that people were forced to flee “the only place they called home”.

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27 June 2023, 12:02