Arunachal youth pray for peace in Manipur

Margherita, 15 May 2023: A group of nearly 500 youth from across Arunachal Pradesh prayed for peace and forgiveness in Manipur at the Divine Renewal Retreat Centre, Margherita, Assam on Sunday.

 Leading the candle-lit prayer for peace, Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao diocese appealed to the youth to be messengers of peace and forgiveness. “What we have witnessed in Manipur is nothing less than what has happened in Ukraine. In this tragic moment of pain and uncertainty, we need to stand united and spread the message of peace across Manipur and in the region,” said the Chairman Bishop of Youth Commission of North East India Regional Bishops’ Council.

Ethnic violence that began across the State of Manipur on 3 May has claimed more than 70 lives and over 200 have been critically injured and according to an official record some 30,000 people displaced.

“The victims of any form of violence are always the innocent. We express our solidarity with the families affected and we pray that peace and normalcy returns to Manipur soon. We also appeal to each of you to extend your helping hand to support the people affected,” said the Salesian prelate.

Having spent weeks in temporary shelters in military camp, many have fled the State to safety across the country.

Speaking at the prayer meet, Taw Tebin, the President of Arunachal Pradesh Catholic Association (APCA), said to the youth, “I appeal each of you to keep your eyes and ears open to guard yourselves from the divisive forces that are scheming to create division and polarization on ethnic and religious lines in our state.”

In the multi-cultural tribal context of Arunachal Pradesh, the APCA president reminded the youth, “In a state like ours where more than 100 tribes have peacefully coexisted, we can ill afford to have an ethnic conflict like in Manipur. It is not enough that we pray for peace but we need to promote peace.”

The unrest in Manipur began when ethnic tribal people organized a protest march against the likelihood of the non-tribal community being recognised as a Scheduled Tribe.

“Having to spend cramped camps for weeks, having lost all that we called home once and with our churches being reduced to ashes, our families are left with so much uncertainty towards our future. We do not know when things are going to be normal again,” said Sister Anna Gangmai, a missionary Nun from Manipur working in Arunachal Pradesh. Her family too has been displaced in the violence.

60 percentage of the 30-lakh population of Manipur belong to the Hindu-majority Meitei group, while largely Christian tribal groups like Kukis and Nagas make up the remaining 40 percentage.

What began as an ethnic violence has taken an anti-Christian shape with many churches and Christian institutions belonging to both the Maitei and Kukis and Nagas. Considering the selective destruction of property belonging to the Christian groups, the violence bears all the semblance of an orchestrated crime against the minority Christians in the State.

As per the official report of the Archdiocese of Imphal on the cost of destruction of St. Paul’s Parish and Pastoral Training Centre, Imphal alone is nearly nine crore Indian rupees.

This prayer meet is not just to pray for peace in Manipur but also to guard ourselves against all the divisive forces and to be messengers of peace, said Junnem Langching, a youth leader from Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.