“There is fear, uncertainty, and a general sense of despair” is how Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal in India described the situation in the eastern state of Manipur.
The state has been devastated by ethnic violence since May 3, resulting in several casualties. Clashes between the Metei (predominantly Hindu) and Kiku (mostly Christians) communities have led to the displacement of thousands of people and extensive damage to homes and churches.
A tense calm enforced by the army now prevails in the city of Imphal and in the 16 districts where a curfew has been imposed.
The violence has affected all residents, irrespective of their community affiliation. Hill villages have been ransacked, looted, and set on fire, prompting thousands of people to flee their homes and seek refuge in camps.
Approximately 45,000 individuals are currently in relief camps across the valley and hills, with significant numbers in different districts.
The exact figures are challenging to verify due to the tense situation on the ground, and there are concerns of an impending economic blockade.
In response to the crisis, the Archdiocese of Imphal has launched an appeal for solidarity, urging the faithful to contribute financially or provide essential items for assistance.
The neighboring Archdiocese of Guwahati in Assam, led by Archbishop John Moolachira, is also mobilizing efforts to support the refugees in Manipur.
The vicar general of the Diocese of Imphal, Father Varghese Velikakam, described the situation as “unstable, marked by deep-seated distrust” among all communities in the state.
In a report sent to all bishops of India, he highlighted the extensive destruction of private properties on both sides, and the targeting of numerous churches in the valley.
Father Velikakam raised questions about the state government’s handling of the situation, including the absence of security personnel in vulnerable areas and the potential complicity of the forces.
He emphasized that the healing process would take time and called for a calm assessment by the Church, urging neutrality, peace promotion, and unity.