Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak to raise the violence in the Indian state of Manipur with his counterpart Narendra Modi.
During a parliamentary debate on freedom of religion and belief, the Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon described the conflict in the region as a "silent attack on Christians" and called on the UK government to act.
“The events in Manipur might be classed as originating in tribal or ethnic tensions, but the Manipur violence has silently been an attack on Christians in India. It is striking that local police and state government sat by as arson destroyed the properties, homes and lives of minority and religious groups. The perpetrators of the violence are understood to be from Hindu extremist whereas the victims are predominantly Christians,” Shannon said.
Up to 150 people are believed to have been killed, tens of thousands forced to flee their homes and 230 churches have been destroyed since the conflict started nearly four months ago.
Modi received red-carpet treatment during a visit to the United States earlier this year, where fellow Democrats also urged President Biden to raise the issue with the Indian leader.
Shannon, who chairs the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief in the UK, also asked the government whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had raised the issue with his counterpart Narendra Modi during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit.
One of the significant promises of Brexit was the prospect of a trade deal with India. With the UK no longer bound by the regulations of the other 27 EU members, it aimed to leverage its shared history and culture with the world's most populous country to facilitate this trade agreement.
Speaking to Premier, Shannon said any trade deal with India should ensure human rights are protected.
He said: “Do we want a trade deal? Yes, we do. But we also want human rights issues addressed; we want freedom of religious expression retained as it is in the Constitution and to make sure that everyone has equal rights. And if they do not have equal rights, we want to be saying that to the government - in this case, to the Indian government, and to President Modi in particular, so that the concerns that we have are highlighted, but also they're acted upon - not just words, action.”
Asked how Christians in the UK can be supporting believers in Manipur, Shannon added: “God's in control. So whenever we pray to God, we pray for His intervention. We pray for his support and help for the brothers and sisters across India who have lost their properties and in some cases family members… we need to pray earnestly, pray fervently, pray continuously, because our God is on the throne and he can answer, and that's what we're trying to do.”