A prayer vigil for Manipur

The Indian Christian community in the New York Tri-state area organized a prayer vigil in front of the United Nations to call attention to the continuing attacks in Manipur, India, on the Kuki-Zo tribal people who are mostly Christians.

More than seven hundred people joined the vigil to express solidarity with those affected in Manipur. Christians from all denominations and regions in partnership with FIACONA (Federation of Indian American Christians of North America) came together to offer prayers for people who lost their lives, homes, and churches to violence.

Victims of violence

Reuters reported that “at least 125 people have been killed and more than 40,000 have fled their homes in Manipur since the violence erupted on May 3.”

Wumang, a woman from Manipur, told the vigil that her family of 28 in Imphal escaped by seeking shelter in an army camp after their homes were burnt down. Mark Mang, also from Manipur talked about relatives who were killed and how his cousins, who were protecting their village, were shot dead by security forces.

Rally organizer Dr. Anna George added, “People are being killed and become refugees. Women are sexually molested, gang-raped, and marched naked. People are without food, water, or shelter. Their anguish and pain are beyond our imagination.”

“The lives of all human beings are equal. There is no difference between Hindu, Christian, Sikh or Jain.”

New York State Senator Kevin Thomas
A group of rally goers holding posters asking for justice for Manipur
A group of rally goers holding posters asking for justice for Manipur (image courtesy: Federation Of Indian Christians Organizations of North America)

Petition to the UN

Organizers also submitted a petition to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights asking to protect human rights against gross violations in Manipur. The petition pointed out that the United Nations has an obligation to intervene to protect human rights, life, and property in this situation.

“This is not a protest rally,” said President Koshy George.” We aim not to examine why the riots happened, who is responsible, or politics. We are here today to pray for the rule of law in Manipur, and obviously, there are limits as to what we can do to help. However, prayer does not have any limitations.” He further clarified that the vigil did not aim to condemn or oppose anyone politically.

The organizing committee was led by Anna George, Koshy George, George Abraham, Raju Abraham, Mathew George, Jimmy Christian, Mary Philip, Paul Panakal, Leela Maret, Pastor Jatinder Gill, Shaju Sam, and V. J. Macwan, among others.

Communal harmony at stake

Remarking on communal harmony in India, Dr. Anna George said, “We have lived in India in harmony with various religious sects for years. But what has happened now? A genocide or massacre is taking place right before our eyes. One hundred forty-five people died. Sixty thousand people were left homeless. Over three hundred churches were destroyed, and one hundred seventy villages were burnt. It is continuing. Undoubtedly,  Christians are being targeted. These are massive human rights violations.”

Prayers offered at the vigil reflected the deep pain felt across the Indian Christian Community in the U.S. for the Manipuri Christians who have borne the brunt of the suffering since the violence began.

“We cannot be silent when we see the tears and lamentation of our brothers and sisters. So far, neither the State Government nor the Central Government has intervened adequately. It must end. This vigil also demands that the American media and government speak for us on this issue. It is a shame that this country is silent on women being abused and run naked,” Dr. George added.

Clergy and legislators attend vigil

The vigil included clergy from across different ethnicities such as Pastor Jacob George who offered the opening prayer. Evangeline Jacob sang the American National Anthem and Fr. Francis Nambiaparam sang the Indian National Anthem. Others who participated in speeches, prayers, or scripture readings included Pastor Babu Thomas, Dr. Sam Samuel, Pastor Itty Abraham, Rev. Dr. Taylor, Rev. Jess M. George, Rev.Dr. Hemalatha Parmar, Pastor Percy McEwan, Rev. Jatinder Gill, and. Mr. Mathew George expressed a vote of thanks.

American activist and journalist Peter Friedrich called out the U.S. government for “strengthening trade ties with Delhi while Christians are bleeding in Manipur. As free people, we have a duty to fight for freedom,” he said.

Bishop Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church remarked, “The wonderful thing about humanity is that we reveal ourselves in times of distress and how we come together in times of anxiety and frustrations because we care about justice, freedom, and peace.” He urged the gathering to be resolute in fighting for justice and praying for those who are persecuted.

FOMAA president Jacob Thomas pointed out that the government needs to adhere to India’s secular constitution.

New York State Senator Kevin Thomas asked for justice and peace to prevail. “The lives of all human beings are equal,” he said. “There is no difference between Hindu, Christian, Sikh, or Jain.”

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