Manipur: Christian churches are at risk of destruction

The government's decision concerns Christian places of worship built on public land. According to the administration (a Hindu nationalist leader), the churches would not have valid permits and break land laws. Catholic source: "At least tell us how to regularize our documents".

Imphal (AsiaNews) - The Christian churches of Manipur risk being destroyed. A local Catholic source confirms this to AsiaNews, reporting on the decision of the local Hindu nationalist government not to register Christian religious buildings located on public land as a "place of worship".

On  October 25, thousands of faithful went down the streets of the capital Imphal and gave rise to a silent protest. "Church leaders - the source continues - are negotiating with the authorities. We hope that they welcome our requests ".

5-6 churches, mostly Protestant, built in residential areas are at risk. According to the government, led by Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh, a former football player and prominent BJP member (Bharatiya Janata Party), the buildings would not be in possession of regular documents and would violate land-related legislation. Hence the decision not to include churches on the list of places of worship in public spaces. This list mentions 188 buildings of all the other religions.

The source rejects the position of the authorities and claims that the places of worship were built with valid permits and not on unregulated land. He adds that the term "destruction" or "demolition" is not present in any official document, but "the risk is concrete". Then he launches an appeal: "At least tell us how to regularize our documents ".

According to the 2011 census on religion, in Manipur, Christianity is the second religion, professed by 41.29% of the inhabitants (the first is Hinduism, with 41.39% of the faithful). The March 25 march was organized by the All Manipur Christian Organization (Amco).

Demonstrators protested peacefully, carrying placards and banners. On them the inscriptions: "We want justice and equal treatment", "Without Church there is no peace", "Christians are for peace and harmony", "We demand the regularization of Christian places of worship".

The Rev. Prim Vaiphei, president of the organization, protests against the "alleged favoritism of [a] religion" by the Hindu party leading the state. The pastor underlines "the decisive role of the Christian churches in spreading the message of living together in peace and harmony among the various communities that populate the territory". "The partiality of the government towards religion - he adds - will not bring good results". For his part, the Chief Minister attempts to distance himself from the affair, arguing that the issue would have nothing to do with the state government. "My government - he declares - believes in secularism, unity and respect for all the communities belonging to different faith, creed and caste".