Tensions Prompt Cancelation of Christmas Celebrations
In Manipur state in northeastern India, a curfew has been announced until December 25th and churches are being threatened with dire consequences if they proceed with Christmas celebrations. Manipur is comprised mainly of two groups of people: the local ethnic group Meitei (mostly Hindus) and people from hill tribes such as the Nagas and the Manipuri (these tribes are mostly Christians). There has historically been a constant political rift between the two groups.
On Dec. 15, as Manipur Chief Minister Mr O. Ibobi Singh was on his way to inaugurate a new district in Lokchow near Tengnoupa, The Naga insurgency group NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) which is not in favor of the new district, launched an attack in which 3 security personnel were killed. In response, Meitei Hindus called a strike all over Manipur. Two days later on Dec, 17, a local volunteer in Manipur reported that some local men and women attacked the Manipur Baptist Church Centre around noon, pelting the building with stones that broke some of the glass, and damaged the gate and the sign board for the book store. The church is comprised primarily of Christians from the Naga tribe. A sign was also posted stating that, “No one is allowed to worship and celebrate Christmas without prior permission.” The group of attackers also verbally warned the TBCI (Tangkhul Baptist Church Imphal), which is located about one mile from the Manipur church, that the church would be burned down if they conduct worship services.
Though the situation was chaotic on Dec. 17, no casualties were reported. On the same day, at another location in Imphal East, vehicles were being stopped. Due to the rise of communal tension in the state, Addl Chief Secy announced the suspension of internet/data services in the state and a seven-day curfew until December 25. A local pastor told our volunteer, “this might just seem to be a communal issue, but this is all planned to create problems for the Christians as even the government has announced a curfew till Christmas.”
Father, You sent Your Son to earth as a light to men that many would turn from spiritual darkness into the light of Christ. We pray against Satan using the political tensions in Manipur to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims and dim the light of Christ in their midst. We pray for Your protection to rest upon Your servants in Manipur state and for Your wisdom to guide church leaders in responding to the threats in ways that bring glory to Your name. Whether or not the normal Christmas celebrations and special worship services took place yesterday, we pray that the light of Christ will live and shine through the humble and compassionate lives of Your servants there and that the good news of Christ will be spread throughout the land. In the name of Jesus, who is he light of the world. Amen.