12/21/2023, 11.48
INDIA
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Manipur, Archbishop of Imphal: 'At Christmas God unites us beyond any tribe, language or culture'

by Nirmala Carvalho

In his Christmas letter to the Catholics of the Indian state shaken by ethnic violence, Archbishop Linus Neli asked his community to share their goods with the poor and needy, praying that India's north-eastern state may regain peace and harmony. The Supreme Court has ordered the local government to identify and draw up a list of places of worship to be restored after being damaged by the violence in recent months.

Imphal (AsiaNews) - "We are approaching Christmas" and "traditionally we look forward to this great celebration", but "this year several parishes in our archdiocese will not be able to carry out Christmas liturgies or gather families and loved ones as happened in the past due to ethnic violence." For this reason the Church invites us to "refrain from grandiose festive celebrations".

With these words the archbishop of Imphal, Msgr. Linus Neli, addresses the Christians of the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur in his Christmas letter. The clashes broke out in May and involved the main tribal groups in the region, the Kuki and the Meitei. Despite a decline in violence, the situation continues to remain tense.

“God adds joy to our hearts by gathering the human family around his Son regardless of race, tribe, language, culture, status, gender or community. We are all one in humanity", underlined the archbishop.

But around the world there are different situations in which Christmas celebrations are interrupted due to violence: “The same difficulty prevails in many parts of the world due to wars and conflicts. Many suffer from stress and anxiety while staying in shelters for an extended period of time. It is even worse in the case of women and children. There are difficulties for people coming together, especially not being able to communicate with each other over long distances, helping to keep their bonds alive through digital media."

In this context, the document, released on 14 December, continues, "Jesus, Emmanuel, identifies with our sufferings and is with us in solidarity with the internally displaced and with those who have lost their loved ones, homes, properties , education and employment”.

Therefore, although the lord “came to give the message of comfort, hope, meaning and purpose of life”, “I appeal to all the People of God to refrain from grandiose festive celebrations during this Christmas and New Year 2024, avoiding in particularly the material and social aspects (for example the singing procession, games and sports, social meetings, musical evenings, the consumerist style during communal meals, etc.)", asked the prelate.

This is despite the Supreme Court last week reiterating assurances made by the Manipur government that measures will be taken to ensure that people in IDP relief camps are able to participate in Christmas ceremonies and prayers.

On the contrary, for this Christmas, continued Mgr. Linus Neli, “we invoke God's intervention to achieve a lasting solution, authentic reconciliation, peace and harmony with justice in our State. God will save us from the ethnic strife and violence that destroy lives and kill the future. Make sacrifices, save and share your resources with the poor and needy, especially with the suffering brothers and sisters in shelters and with the displaced who are struggling without basic human needs. Pray for God's mercy which generates living hope."

The Supreme Court also ordered the local government to provide a list of places of worship that have been damaged so that they can be restored. "The State of Manipur will identify and provide to the committee - headed by Justice Gita Mittal - a complete list of religious structures that have been vandalized, a process which must involve all religious denominations that have been damaged or destroyed", the court specified.

Since the inter-ethnic clashes broke out, the deaths of almost 200 people have been recorded, while around 50 thousand have been internally displaced: the Kuki, with a Christian majority, who traditionally inhabit the hilly areas, have left their homes in the same way as the Meitei, predominantly Hindus, who mainly occupy the Imphal Valley but who have abandoned the Kuki majority districts.

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