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6/9/2023 India (International Christian Concern) – Conflict in the Indian state of Manipur has left 98 people dead, 35,000 displaced, and 100 churches destroyed since violence broke out in early May, according to the UK-based news outlet Church Times.

International Christian Concern (ICC) has warned of rampant persecution of Christians in parts of India and trends away from religious freedom.

Ethno-religious conflicts and demonstrations have fueled the violence. The majority-Christian ethnic groups (primarily Kuki and Naga) held demonstrations against proposals to name the majority-Hindu Meitei group as a “Scheduled Tribe” (ST), a special classification for minority groups in India. The demonstrations escalated into violent confrontations between Naga and Kuki groups and the Meitei, causing Indian security forces to deploy to the region.

The situation in northeastern India is compounded by the civil war in Myanmar as the two countries share an open border agreement. One Meitei representative said that transnational illegal immigration, criminal organizations, and insurgent groups from Myanmar are root causes of the Manipur conflict.

Amit Shah—the Indian Minister of Home Affairs from the BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party) ruling party—recently visited Manipur to evaluate the crisis, announcing several judicial measures. Critics saw that government efforts made the situation worse.

As the conflict lingers, Christian leaders in Manipur raised concerns about the threat of persecution for believers. A local Church of England official noted that the “first target is always the church.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury called for the Indian local government to “protect all minority groups, including Christians and their places of worship.”

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