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Church appeals for peace in northeastern Indian state

Ethnic violence in Manipur since last week has raised concerns across the nation
People wait at a temporary shelter in a military camp, after being evacuated by the Indian army, as they flee ethnic violence that has hit the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on May 7

People wait at a temporary shelter in a military camp, after being evacuated by the Indian army, as they flee ethnic violence that has hit the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on May 7. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 08, 2023 08:59 AM GMT
Updated: May 09, 2023 05:38 AM GMT

Catholic Church leaders have appealed for calm in India’s northeastern state of Manipur where 54 people have reportedly been killed and some 23,000 people displaced in ethnic violence since last week.

“The Catholic Church is very much concerned for the people of Manipur, irrespective of which tribe or community they belong to,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said in a statement on May 5.

The unrest began on May 3 when members of an ethnic tribal group organized a protest march against the likelihood of the non-tribal Meitei community being recognized as a “Scheduled tribe” making them eligible for reserved quotas in educational institutions and government jobs, besides other government benefits and protections.

The Meitei account for about 53 percent of Manipur’s 3 million people, while tribal groups like Kukis and Nagas make up around 40 percent.

The CBCI statement signed by CBCI President Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur said, “I am requesting all bishops to spread the message to have prayer services in parishes and religious institutions for peace in the state and for warring parties to enter into dialogue and rebuild Manipur into the beautiful peace loving place that it was.” 

Cardinal Anthony Poola, the metropolitan archbishop of Hyderabad, in a statement on May 7 expressed solidarity with all the affected communities.

"It is essential for us, as a peace-loving community, to stand together against such acts of persecution"

“While condemning those despicable acts, we ask our faithful Christians and defenders of democracy not to react violently. It is essential for us, as a peace-loving community, to stand together against such acts of persecution and ensure the protection of religious minorities, including Christians,” said Cardinal Poola.

The cardinal also urged the government and all concerned parties to engage in peace efforts through dialogue and negotiations.

“I call upon the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added.

Bishop Ignatius D'Souza of Bareilly while condemning the violence said “no ideology can justify the killing of human beings. Our thoughts are with the families of the dead in this difficult hour.”

“I urge all those with influence over the situation to use it in the cause of peace; to support efforts to end the violence, restore order and return to normalcy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) on May 6 urged the federal government to take necessary actions to restore peace in the state.

“The federal government should be ready to take necessary steps to restore peace in Manipur. The riots going on in Manipur for the past few days are causing a lot of concern,” KCBC President Cardinal Baselios Cleemis of Trivandrum said in a statement.

Calling for peace in Manipur, the All-India Catholic Union (AICU) said it is deeply distressed by the loss of life in the state.

“The government must at the earliest set up a judicial commission headed by a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India to go into the causes of the violence,” said AICU National President Elias Vaz.

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