Churches were warned not to celebrate Christmas
As tensions escalated between Christians and Hindus last December, churches in some parts of India received a last minute warning not to celebrate Christmas.
In a desperate bid to quash the violence, the regional authorities put Manipur on lockdown and banned churches from celebrating Christmas. They also cut off internet access to the region and imposed a curfew on the town until Christmas Day.
The ban on Christmas services and drastic security measures were imposed in response to violent clashes between the Hindu-majority Meitei community and Christian-majority hill tribes, including the Naga community.
At the beginning of December three security guards were killed by Naga insurgents over the formation of a new district in Lokchow, near Tengnoupal. The Meitei community hit back, throwing stones at the Manipur Baptist Church Centre, smashing glass and destroying the building. The attackers left a chilling warning: “No one is allowed to worship and celebrate Christmas without prior permission.” The same mob also threatened nearby Tangkhul Baptist Church Imphal that if they conducted religious services, the church would be burnt down.
A local pastor said: “This might just seem to be a communal issue, but this is all planned to create problems for the Christians as even the government has announced a curfew till Christmas.”
There are an estimated 63 million Christians in India with 80 per cent of the country’s 1.3billion population identifying as Hindu.
Attacks on Christians in India have been increasing since 2013 and it is against the law to convert to Christianity in five states. Persecution against Christians is becoming extremely violent.
In the past year more than 350 Christians were physically attacked by Hindu extremists, nine Christians were killed for their faith and at least three women were raped.