There are signs that violence against Christians in India is moderating, although one Anglican leader warned police have been turning a blind eye to attacks by Hindu mobs. The unrest, which began in May, has claimed 175 lives, and injured another 1108, with 32 missing and nearly 50,000 people displaced.
A number of villages and localities were burned by mobs. President of the All India Christian Council, Archbishop Joseph D’souza, says the violence in Manipur particularly targeted women but, due to a three-month internet blackout imposed on the area, coverage of the violence was limited.
“A massive number of Christians in Manipur, who make up some 40 per cent of the state’s population, have been displaced, while Kuki Christians in particular have witnessed the destruction of hundreds of their churches and the brutal rape of their women,” Archbishop D’souza said in a statement for Religion News Service.
At the height of the violence, the Archbishop said, “It is obvious that Kuki Christians are under full-scale attack by radicalised Hindu groups and that the police are ignoring this injustice”.
Since the internet blackout was lifted, viral video of an attack on two Christian women in Manipur has been circulating widely. One woman aged in her 20s and another in her 50s were dragged from a police van by a mob before being stripped, paraded and gang-raped. The younger woman’s brother and father were killed trying to protect them.
On Indian Independence Day in August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his 80-day silence on the Manipur violence saying that India stood with the people of Manipur and that “the state and the central government are working together to solve those problems and will continue to do so”.
Archbishop Raffel has written to NSW Premier Chris Minns, who recently hosted Prime Minister Modi, asking him to protest through diplomatic channels and to plead for the protection of Christians in Manipur.
Sydney Synod in September also passed a motion expressing concern about the events, particularly the sexual violence perpetrated against women. Synod asked the Australian Government to formally call upon Prime Minister Modi and his administration to take immediate and substantial measures to address the ongoing violence, and requested parishes to pray for the protection of our brothers and sisters in Manipur as well as supporting Anglican Aid's tax-deductible "Aid for Manipur" fund [url=https://bit.ly/manipur-aid]https://bit.ly/manipur-aid[/url].
“God is with us”
Amid the struggles, local Kuki believer Lhing Haokip said, “We believe that God is with us in this battle. Though the churches don't function as normal, the church is open for the believers to come and pray and many believers are praying. We believe that the prayers from Christians all over the world have kept the tribal believers safe until now.
“Pray with us that God will strengthen Christians to be on their knees to pray and seek God.”
Archbishop D’souza warned the violence may encourage lawlessness in other parts of India. “This violent assault and murder of women in Manipur points to the horrors to come if we fail to awaken the global conscience across religious and caste lines,” he said. “Whether it’s a Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Dalit woman who is raped or killed, all of India – and the world – must speak out for justice.
“Violence and sexual assault against any woman is a travesty, no matter the background of the victim or the perpetrator. Yet if hate speech and bigotry continue to rule the day, as we’ve witnessed in Manipur, the world will descend further into chaos for women everywhere.”
For the quick restoration of peace in Manipur
For healing for the women who have been attacked, especially the two women in the video and their families as they grieve the loss of their father and brother
For the families of those who have lost mothers, sisters, and daughters
That all perpetrators will be brought to justice
That displaced families may be able to return home
That God’s comfort will fill all of those affected by the violence