News India | 06 May 2024

Indian Christians in Manipur deal with election violence


Show: true / Country: India / India
Indian Christians in Manipur deal with election violence

Nearly one year since violent clashes tore apart Manipur State in northeast India, Christians still need your prayers and help.

It’s been nearly a year since Manipur State in northeastern India was rocked by violence. The clashes, mostly between the Christian-majority Kuki tribe and the mostly Hindu Meitei people group, left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.

Christians were particularly targeted—believers were killed or forced to flee, and churches and homes were burned. Even Meitei Christians, who are mostly converts from Hinduism, were targeted by extremist Hindus in the attack.
While the height of the violence took place a year ago, skirmishes and violent outbreaks have continued. Just recently on April 12, gunfire and clashes between the community continued, with two Christian believers from the Kuki tribe shot dead while two from the Meitei community were injured.

And the Indian elections, which began on April 19, saw more violence. On the day of the elections, Hindu extremists attacked polling booths, vandalized ballot machines, and even cast votes on behalf of other citizens. Clashes and gunfire near voting booths have startled and scared locals. This video from India Today shows the chaos of election day, with stone throwing and even a recovered bomb.

“On the day of the election, there were complaints of voter intimidation, booth-capturing, and violence,” says Open Doors local partner Priya Sharma*. “Armed men were roaming around polling stations despite the presence of security forces while [other footage from the area] showed miscreants firing multiple rounds near polling stations, with voters fleeing.”
Because of the violence, re-polling in Manipur was held on April 22, and the original vote was declared null and void. The Hindu reports that the reelection was more peaceful, with 81.64% voter turnout.

“An important event like the elections where the security is high and tight has not been spared by extremists to create violence—this shows the real situation of Manipur,” Sharma says. “There hasn’t been a month where violence is not reported. It is hurtful to see how Manipur is suffering. Communities that once lived in peace and harmony are at loggerheads with each other due to the hatred and misconception spread by the extremists, while there is still a huge section of people who still long to live in love and tranquility.

“So far, more than 200 Christians have been killed from both the Kuki tribe and Meitei community,” Sharma says. “More than 1,000 villages were burned down, and more than 700 churches belonging to Meitei and Kuki Christians were destroyed and burned down. Around 10,000 houses were looted and burned, and more than 70,000 families from both communities were displaced and live in relief camps, or with relatives in neighboring states.” ‘The Body of Christ is suffering’

When the violence broke out, most of the families ran for safety with only the clothes they were wearing and could not carry crucial documents and other essentials with them. Women have been targeted for sexual violence while men have been attacked and killed—both types of violence leave families, churches and Christian communities in tatters. Open Doors partners have heard stories that when a male member of the family tries to return to his home village to collect essential documents, they are attacked and also killed.

Many churches that were destroyed have yet to be restored. In the Kuki-dominated area, the Kuki believers were able to gather for Easter celebrations, while Meitei Christians were still unable to gather in churches or worship together. Many Meitei Christians are being threatened and told to sign a letter stating they are denouncing their Christian faith—but most refuse to do so and continue to live under constant risk.

Meitei Christians long to have fellowship and gatherings but are unable to do so. “I must go meet believers secretly,” says Kiran*, a Meitei pastor from the city of Imphal. “It is disheartening that we are unable to freely gather and worship; we are hated by the Meitei community and not welcomed by the Kuki tribe. There was a time when the Kuki and Meitei lived in harmony and worshiped together, but sadly today we are at each other’s throats.

“Our hearts desire to have a place to worship freely, have stability in the state, and live in unison with each other,” Kiran continues. “The Body of Christ in Manipur is suffering. There is division, hatred and enmity, I believe that with patience, the God of all understanding will restore the peace and goodwill in Manipur.”

Minthang* a Kuki pastor, was displaced from his village and saw his church and house burning. “I had never imagined that I would witness such a cruel situation in my state,” he says. “We were happily living and having fellowship with each other and with the Meitei brothers and sisters. But now the situation has turned; both communities are facing each other and clashing with each other.

“When the violence broke out, I thought it would last a day or two, but it has been a year, and we continue to witness clashes and hear gunfire and bombing. It is painful to see this state turn into a battleground. I also believe that God is mindful of our situation, and He will put back the state to peace and unity.”

The Prime Minister of India claims that due to the timely intervention of the central government and state government, there is a significant improvement in Manipur. But on-the-ground sources suggest that’s not entirely true.

“The irony is, that it comes from a leader who never visited the state from the time the violence broke out and who remained silent during the ongoing violence,” Sharma says. “He spoke only when a video of two women [being sexually assaulted and paraded through the streets] went viral and opposition moved a no-confidence motion.”

How you’re helping—and how you can pray

Amidst the ongoing violence, Open Doors partners are continuing to reach out to the affected victims with presence ministry, grocery relief, safe housing, urgent aid, small-scale projects, income-generating projects and trauma counseling. The need is ongoing, and our partners are trying to reach the maximum number of people, given the risk involved.
“It is disturbing to see my people suffering and living in destitute and pathetic conditions,” says Istuti*, an Open Doors local partner. “We are trying to reach out to the affected families with their immediate needs and provide long-term help. The roads are rugged and rough, and most of the organizations hesitate to go inside. But we are traveling through those roads and reaching out with help and presence ministry.”

Since the violence broke out in 2023, Open Doors partners have been able to reach more than 6,000 families with urgent needs like groceries, safe housing, medical assistance, blanket distribution, mosquito nets, utensils and bicycles. More than 50 families have received income-generating projects that could help them earni a steady income. Around 30 students were supported with educational expenses, and about seven literacy schools for Manipur survivors have been supported. About 400 individuals received trauma counseling, and more than 2,200 people benefitted through our persecution preparedness training.

“It is a joy to see the smile on their face when we meet them,” Istuti says. “They express love and gratitude when we spend time with them and listen to them. They are delighted to see that they are not alone, and that Christian brothers and sisters are with them in prayers and through help and support. The conditions that these affected families are living in will leave you disturbed, angered and heartbroken.”

“It is a joy to see your help is not just limited to one community but to all, and that your help is equal to all,” shares Mohan*, a Meitei pastor. “You are risking your lives and reaching out to us; it gives me happiness and assurance that the Body of Christ is together, and we are backed up by your presence and love.”

*Names changed for security reasons

please pray

Please continue to pray for Christians in Manipur State, especially during this sensitive election season. Our local partners have shared 10 ways we can stand with our Indian brothers and sisters in prayer:

  • Prayer for the situation in Manipur to be restored to normalcy.
  • Pray for the affected families living in relief camps under poor and limited conditions; pray for their health, hygiene, provisions and work resources.
  • Pray for the Christians who are unable to gather or must worship in secret.
  • Pray for children from Manipur who are still traumatized. Their parents are worried about their future and upbringing.
  • Pray for the dwelling of God's spirit of forgiveness and acceptance.
  • Pray for the burned churches and homes to be restored.
  • Pray for the national and state governments to take essential and appropriate steps to bring the state under law and order, restore peace and work amicably with each community.
  • Pray for India’s election results, that, whichever government comes to power, will promote religious freedom and equality.
  • Pray for God’s wisdom and knowledge and that government authorities, officials and armed forces would diligently take the right steps to maintain justice, law and order.
  • Pray for Open Doors partners who are reaching out to the victims with practical aid and training under risky circumstances. Pray for their safety and protection.


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