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World Tour: Persecution in India


WORLD Radio - World Tour: Persecution in India

Tribal clashes in Manipur, India lead to severe persecution of Christians

Refugees from Manipur state at a relief camp in Lakhipur, India Associated Press/Photo by Panna Ghosh

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It:

Ethnic violence in India. More than 30,000 people have fled their communities in northeast India this month after a spike in ethnic violence.

NICK EICHER, HOST: The conflict between a Hindu majority community and a mainly Christian tribe has fueled rioting. A pastor in the region worries that rioters are targeting Christians, including Hindu converts to Christianity. WORLD’s Onize Ohikere reports.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Thousands of people, some holding children climbed into waiting military trucks this month, fleeing violence in India’s hilly northeastern Manipur state.

Behind them, smoke and ashes rose from what was once home.

The fighting mostly centered between the dominant Meitei Hindu community, and the mainly Christian Kukis who make up one of the larger tribal communities.

Both sides have a history of clashes. The Meiteis mostly reside in the valley while the Kukis and other tribal groups live in the hill districts.


The latest violence began on May 3 after the Kukis staged a protest to oppose the Meitei’s quest for Scheduled Tribe status.

That designation gives marginalized communities like the Kukis guaranteed quotas for education, health, and government jobs, and also land access.

The tribal communities worry that granting the majority Meitei’s tribal status could threaten their protected lands.

The protest quickly dissolved into violence in a matter of hours. Mobs set churches and cars on fire and looted stores. Rioters burned down entire villages.


More than 70 people died in the violence, and 30,000 people fled. Security officials say mobs from both sides contributed to the violence that burned nearly 2,000 homes.

Authorities shut down the internet, imposed a curfew, and deployed hundreds of military troops to the state.

This resident watched his friend get killed while trying to defend his village.

RESIDENT: Some of the Meitei gangs, which they call Meitei Leepun, they came along with the commandos. The commandos were taking lead holding automatic rifles and some of the Meiteis were taking pistols along with them. He was shot at the back and when he fell down they approached him and shot him point-blank at the forehead.

Open Doors ranks India as the 11th worst country for Christians. The organization says Hindu nationalism fuels attacks against Christians, Muslims, and other religious minorities.

Pastor Matthew Tyndale is a Meitei Christian who has gone into hiding. For his safety, WORLD is not using his real name and we are distorting his voice.

MATTHEW TYNDALE: Within 24 hours in the six Meitei districts of Manipur, about 200 churches were either destroyed or burned. And there is no explanation. Nobody talks about this.

From his window, Tyndale watched the smoke rise across his street. He says it looked like a war zone.

Tyndale pastors an independent church.

TYNDALE: So we are first generation Christians. Christianity is growing among our people group at a very alarming rate. That's a big concern, I think, for the ruling, for the government. When I was a little boy, you could go for miles and you couldn't see a church. And today, almost in every locality there is a little church.

While the clashes continued between the Meiteis and Kukis, Tyndale says Meitei rioters also targeted churches within their own communities.

TYNDALE: We have 28 churches in our mission field. Not a single one stands today. And my friend from another denomination, they have 28 churches among the Meiteis, 27 were burned or destroyed.

Last week, his brother received threats over a Christian school he runs in another district.

TYNDALE: Five young men come to my brother and said, ‘You have to decide now whether you're going to do any Christian thing in this school or not. If you're going to do like your prayers, say your prayers, talk about the Bible in this school, there is no option. We will have to burn this school.’

He says he’s heard about groups targeting well-known local Christian leaders.

His brother and some of his friends who also lead churches have left the area and switched off their phones.

Tyndale says these threats are attempts to stop the church from growing. Despite the danger, he believes the church will adapt — and survive.

TYNDALE: No one will be able to go in public and preach the gospel now. We will not be able to gather like before. It will have to be small groups here and there in secret.

That’s it for this week’s WORLD Tour.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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