At least 71 have died in sectarian riots with tribal Christians in a standoff with the majority Meitei Hindu community
Christians on May 21 attend an ecumenical prayer meeting for peace in Manipur in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral, New Delhi, which was visited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Easter Holy Week. (Photo: Supplied)
Christian leaders have urged people in the riot-hit northeastern Indian state of Manipur to maintain peace after sectarian violence claimed over 71 lives and close to 1,700 houses, including places of worship, were burnt.
“In solidarity, we grieve with our brothers and sisters who have fallen victims to violence and have suffered immensely in consequence. We also convey our deepest condolences to all those who have lost their near and dear ones to this human carnage,” Archbishop Emeritus Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati and chairman of the Joint Peace Mission Team (JPMT) said in a statement.
The Joint Peace Mission Team comprising the Nagaland Joint Christian Forum and Concerned Citizens for Peace noted that the situation “in Manipur is very frightening and escalating to proportions of a huge humanitarian crisis.”
The statement, signed by Archbishop Menamparampil and JPMT spokesperson, Allen Brooks, called on people in Manipur “to explore constructive ways of easing the circumstances and moving forward."
Sectarian violence broke out in Manipur, which borders Myanmar, on May 3 when tribal groups, comprising mainly Christians, opposed the demand for inclusion of the majority Meitei Hindu community in the Scheduled Tribe category to avail benefits of reservation quota under India’s affirmative action plan. The Meiteis account for 53 percent and tribal Christians 41.29 percent of Manipur’s 3.2 million population.
A mass rally was organised by the All-Tribal Students’ Union Manipur which turned violent in many districts. The government imposed a curfew in 16 districts, and suspended mobile internet services.
"The destinies of all our human communities are intertwined with each other"
The riot between ethnic Kuki Christians and Meitei Hindus claimed at least 71 lives, displaced more than 45,000 people and hurt 230 others. Close to 1,700 houses, including places of worship, were damaged in the violence, which was later attributed to religious sentiments.
On May 21, the Manipur government, led by Biren Singh of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, extended the suspension of internet services till May 26 to avoid circulation of hate speeches and rumors.
“We hope that they will be able to find ways of settling the differences and hold on to the values of the distant past where models of collaborative conduct and inter-community engagement prevailed with the knowledge that the destinies of all our human communities are intertwined with each other,” the archbishop said in the statement.
In the national capital New Delhi, the North East Catholic Community of Delhi and the Commission for Ecumenism and the Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi held an hour-long ecumenical prayer in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, which was visited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Easter Holy Week.
The ecumenical prayer, led by Archbishop Anil Joseph Couto of Delhi, was attended by over 200 Christians.
Monsignor Juan Pablo Cerrillos Hernandez, charge d’ affairs at the nunciature in New Delhi, said the prayer meeting should be turned into a channel of peace to bring peace in Manipur.
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