Christian leaders in Britain have joined their colleagues in India to appeal to end violence against their brothers and sisters in the north east of the country.
The Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mountstephen said: “Like many others, I have watched events in Manipur unfold with growing alarm. It’s clear to me from evidence on the ground that there is a clear religious dimension to what is a very disturbing situation, with Christians being attacked by others from the same ethnic background. Freedom of Religion or Belief is not a ‘nice to have’ but a fundamental human right, and I hope the UK Government will do all it can to see it upheld in Manipur.”
The persecution of Christians in India is not new. In June 2019, the Bishop of Truro delivered an independent report on the global persecution of Christians. In the report, which was commissioned by the then British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Bishop Philip wrote:
“Mob violence has become a regular occurrence in the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Telangana leading to beatings, forced conversion from Christianity to Hinduism, sexual violence against women and murder.
“…religious extremists/nationalists have carefully crafted an influential political narrative that states that Christianity is an alien or foreign religion in a number of countries. For example, there is a growing narrative in India that to be Indian is to be Hindu.”
The Catholic Bishop of Adilabad, in south-central India, Rt Rev Antony Prince Panengadan said “The plight of Christians in Manipur is a serious concern, not only for the Christians but for the entire nation as well. Atrocities against any group in the name of religion are a clear violation of the rights enshrined in the constitution of India.
“Christians in India, like any other citizens, have the fundamental right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion. Being Christian in no way reduces patriotism. Christian faith urges loyalty to the homeland and respect for its leaders.”
The charity, Open Doors UK, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide reported from India in June 2023 that: “The damage is massive – more than 350 churches have been destroyed. Thousands of Christian houses and properties have been burned and demolished, more than 100 people have been killed in the violence, and more than 30,000 Christians from both Meitei and Kuki sides have been displaced and are taking shelter in neighbouring states or in camps and other places of refuge.”
CTE Trustee and leader of the Ground Level Network East Yorkshire Connection, Richard Bradbury, who is currently visiting Bangalore in south India, said: “I find myself confronted by a welter of conversations regarding events in Manipur. The news of what is happening there is now out in the open. It was brought to a head when a video emerged on social media of two women who had been gang-raped and were being paraded naked in their town. This has caused a lot of outrage and it is only in response to this that Prime Minister Modi has finally spoken up.
“I believe this situation needs to be made known more widely in the West so that we, as churches, can pray and take appropriate action. I invite fellow Christians to join in prayer:
Please bring justice to the oppressed in Manipur.
Bring peace where there is conflict and an end to violence.
May you move the government to act in righteousness.
For the sake of your kingdom and glory. Amen.“