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General Secretary wants the Welsh Government to speak truth to the Indian Government

 

The General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to hold the Indian Government to account over their treatment of Christians in Manipur.

Manipur, a state in north east India, has been featured in a recent Open Doors report highlighting the world’s most oppressive governments. The World Watch List ranks the 50 nations where Christians face the most extreme persecution and discrimination worldwide. India comes in at number 11. And events in Manipur are part of this narrative of persecution and discrimination, where  a largely Christian minority tribal group have been driven from their land, homes and churches.

Violence erupted on 3 May 2023,23 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised by the All-Tribal Students Union of Manipur to protest the decision by the Manipur High Court to consider giving scheduled tribe status to the Meitei community. There was fear that such a status would empower the Metei to drive out the minority tribal group. Aggressive clashes ensued between the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi (tribal) communities. It is estimated that rioting mobs killed more than 148 Christians and injured hundreds more. In addition, nearly 400 churches were attacked, as well as over 4,700 other Christian properties. But these attacks have not been limited to one tribal group. More than half of the 400 churches attacked were those of Meitei Christians – 249 of these within the first 36 hours of rioting.

Particularly horrific has been the situation for Christian women in Manipur. On 19 July, a video of two Kuki women being assaulted went viral online. The incident occurred on 4 May, but only came to light after the partial lifting of an internet ban. The women were dragged from a police van by a mob from a different tribe before being stripped, paraded and sexually assaulted.

Dr Sharon Singsit Evans, a Manipuri woman living in the UK said: we have to remember here that whatever is happening in Manipur, is not a regional thing. There is a huge political drive behind this with the national government in India being Hindu, which is essentially driven by motivation to turn India into a Hindu country. You can see that the central government have the power to quell this violence and yet they haven’t done it’.

Rev Nan Powell Davies, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Wales said: ‘We are appalled at the state and central governments’ response to the incident. More than two months after the incident occurred, no arrests had been made. The police have apparently now opened a case but it is lamentably slow. I am calling on the Welsh Government to use their international influence and raise these matters with the Indian authorities. Whilst good trade relations are important, they cannot come at the expense of human rights. We in Wales expect the Welsh and UK governments to do the right thing and speak up on behalf of tens of thousands of Christians who have been driven from their homes, land and churches. Even though India’s constitution is defined as a secular democracy, the Hindu nationalism promoted by prime Minister Narenda Modi and his BJP party looks like ethnic cleansing. Thousands of displaced Manipuris hare now living in refugee shelters in the neighbouring state of Mizoram, with whom we have a long and enduring connection’. 

Wales and northern India share a common Christian faith, largely due to Thomas Jones (1810-1849), a Welsh Presbyterian minister who took his family to the state of Meghalaya and helped to embed Christianity there. In 2018, the state government announced that 22 June would be celebrated as “Thomas Jones Day” every year.

Editor’s note: The attached images show Rev Nan Powell Davies and Dr Sharon Singsit-Evans. For interviews, please contact Gethin Russell-Jones, Press Officer, 07378 309268