Monday, March 21, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– An influential Christian advocacy group in India expressed concern Monday, March 21, about "increasing persecution and harassment" of Christians in the north-eastern state of Manipur.
The All India Christian Council (AICC) said it would present Manupur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh a list of "atrocities" and urge him as well as international human rights watchers "to protect the minority Christian population" against mainly Hindu militants, local media reported.
At an AICC supported meeting in the Manipur Baptist Church, several church officials cited as recent examples of oppression the demolition of at least one church and "the rising cases of persecution of new Christian converts", regional daily The Telegraph said.
"Christians in the area were warned of against reconstructing it," one unidentified church leader was quoted as saying.
The AICC suggested that Hindu militants were especially targeting Christians among the Rongmeis and Meiteis tribes, which have established an increasing number of churches in recent years. There are about 15,000 Meitei Christians in Manipur with 132 churches of different denomination, according to church estimates. The overall percentage of Christians in the state is as high as 34.11 percent, a 1991 Census said.
In a further sign of religious tension, local residents "did not allow" a Christian funeral service for the father of a Meitei pastor at Phumlou in Imphal West district in November," reportedly said the Meitei Baptist Association's Executive Secretary of Meitei Devendra Singh.
"Locals also dug out the body of the mother of the same pastor from the local cemetery in July," The Telegraph quoted him as saying.
The reported incidents come amid growing concern among Indian church groups about what they see as wide spread anti Christian violence across India. At least one church leader was killed and dozens of Bible students were injured in Hindu violence, according to Christian officials and human rights watchers.
AICC National Secretary for Public Affairs, Sam Paul, told reporters that his group and the All Manipur Christian Organization would seek advise and support from the UK based Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Assist New Service, a Christian news agency based in the US.
He denied allegations made by Hindu fundamentalist groups that people "were being forcibly converted to Christianity in the Northeast" and that "foreign funds were flooding the region to lure people of other faiths" into the Christian fold.
"Christians have the equal right to propagate their religion or belief as any other citizens of the country," Paul said. (Based in New Delhi, Journalist Vishal Arora, 32, has covered persecution and other hard hitting news stories for a variety of international and national publications. He has traveled around the country on invitation by NGOs for seminars and talks on human rights, communalism, and religious persecution. Vishal Arora can be contacted at e-mail address email@example.com or visit his website )