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World News

Catholic, Evangelical and Baptist churches among more than 120 destroyed in India violence

by Donna Birrell

Evangelical, Baptist, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches are among more than 120 Christian places of worship which have been completely destroyed or burnt in a wave of violence across the Manipur district of India.

Premier has seen a list confirming the number of churches - including those which have been demolished since the violence began on May 3rd. It's believed the total number of churches destroyed may be much higher.

The violence broke out in the northeastern state of Manipur during a protest march. Thousands of Christian tribal people were opposing a demand by the majority Hindu non-tribal group for the constitutionally defined status of a scheduled tribe, which can bring with it access to jobs and education.

Police responded to attacks on homes and churches with several rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets.

The worst violence took place in the state's capital Imphal, where mobs ran amok attacking tribal people, their homes and churches.

A document seen by Premier from the Churachandpur District Christians’ Goodwill Council lists the churches which have been attacked by denomination.

The document shows 17 churches from the Evangelical Churches Association and the Evangelical Baptist Convention have been completely burnt down, with four partially burnt or vandalised.

Eight churches from the Independent Church of India have been completely burnt along with nine churches from the Evangelical Free Church of India.

52 Presbyterian churches have also been completely burnt or demolished.

Among the other churches affected are three Roman Catholic places of worship which have been completely burnt. Other denominations affected include the Assembly of God church and the New Testament Baptist Churches’ Association.

The violence has seen more than 36000 people displaced from their homes, according to Manipur’s Chief Minister, N Biren Singh. Education minister Thounaoj am Basanta Kumar is reported as saying that 68 people have died in the violence, but local Christian organisations in Manipur put the figures much higher.

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