The European Parliament has approved an urgency resolution demanding the government of India “take urgent steps to restore calm” in Manipur, where ethnically-driven violence has seen the Christian community come under attack.
After a debate last night, the vote by MEPs is in response to violent clashes which erupted in May over simmering disputes between Manipur’s largely Hindu Meitei people and the mainly Christian Kuki tribal group.
At least 120 people have died, 50,000 displaced, and over 1,700 homes and 190 villages destroyed.
Lists of Christian buildings seen by Premier Christian News sent from Manipur estimate over 500 churches, Christian schools, seminaries and the homes of church pastor have been burned down from among both communities. But with the internet down and access blocked, verification has been difficult.
“It seems that more and more Christians are in danger,” Croatian MEP Ladislav Ilčić (ECR) told Premier Christian News.
“It's not just Kuki tribes who are Christians,” he said. “Among Meitei inhabitants it seems that their churches and also Christian colleges are burned. So, so it's, it is really a real religious problem,” he commented.
The European Parliament resolution was adopted by a large majority and calls for the Indian government “to tackle the impunity enjoyed by mobs perpetrating the violence and respond to stem the violence in line with their international human rights obligations”.
Responding to the vote, Adina Portaru, senior counsel for ADF International which fights for religious liberty said “It’s long past time for India to not only address the situation in Manipur, but also it must eradicate any laws and policies that obstruct freedom of religion. Our prayers are with the people of India.”
Six separate party groupings put forward resolutions. Speaking in the debate, MEP Miriam Lexmann from the EPP-Christian Democrats said: “While Indian officials often like to boast that the country is the world’s largest democracy, intolerance and violence against religious minorities paint a different picture.”
“These attacks against Christians are not isolated incidents,” she stated, “They are organized, leaving behind destruction and shattered lives. The European Union cannot close its eyes to these crimes.”
Speaking himself in the debate, Ladislav Ilčić MEP stressed: “Our message must be clear: we will not turn our heads away from violence, and we will not turn our backs on persecuted Christians.”
Religious freedom conditions in India have worsened in recent years. According to ADF and persecution charities such as Open Doors and CSW, laws at the local, state, and national levels, including anti-conversion laws, have been used in discriminatory fashion towards religious minorities.
A report produced by former BBC investigative journalist David Campanale summarising eyewitness testimony of attacks on religious freedom in Manipur was sent to MEPs ahead of the debate.
It was also sent last month to 170 MPs in Westminster by the U.K Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief, Fiona Bruce MP. But Manipur has yet to be debated in the British Parliament.