MUMBAI, India – Archbishop Linus Neli of Imphal in Manipur, India, called all Catholic faithful in the state to hold a 3-day intense fast and prayer for reconciliation and peace.

The archdiocese appealed for the prayers to be held May 3-5.

Manipur is a state in northeast India with a population of 2.8 million. The Meitei people make up 53 percent of the population, the Naga people make up 24 percent, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people make up 16 percent. Hindus and Christians each make up about 41 percent of the population, while Muslims make up just over 8 percent.

In May 2023, an ethnic clash between the Meitei people and Kuki people led to the death of hundreds and the displacement of 60,000 people.

The conflict was triggered by an affirmative action controversy in which Christian Kukis protested a demand by mostly Meitei Hindus for a special status that would let them buy land in the hills populated by Kukis and other tribal groups, and get a share of government jobs.

Ethnic violence has been a decades-old problem in Manipur state, where 700 people were killed in 1993 and the government took a year and a half to restore normalcy in the region.

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This week’s statement from the archdiocese said that while the situation may have relatively relaxed, “we know only too well the present scenario of ethnic segregation and several hundreds of our people still languishing in great distress, pain and uncertainties in relief camps and in undesirable conditions.”

“Let us persistently pray for the day when people of all ethnicities and religious communities can live together peacefully in this beautiful land of Manipur,” the statement added.

The archbishop recalled the most horrifying and harrowing days – particularly May 3-5, 2023 – saying, “we should fall on our knees to intensify our prayers for genuine reconciliation and peace with justice among all fellow human beings.”

“Like many responsible communities and organisations, the Catholic Church in Manipur has been in the forefront in humanitarian interventions, in peace dialogue, and in constant prayer for early solution,” he continued.

Quoting Isaiah 57:18-19 from the Bible, Neli asserted , “it is our firm confidence that God will hear our prayers and heal our land, guide and comfort our people, and give peace to those who are far away and peace to those who are near.”

He appealed to all people of goodwill in Manipur to give peace a chance, but most earnestly he exhorted the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Imphal to hold a time of “intense fasting and prayer for reconciliation and peace in Manipur in their respective parishes/churches.”

The All Manipur Christian Organisation (AMCO) has also issued a call for collective prayer to address the persistent unrest plaguing Manipur.

AMCO also highlighted the distressing toll on religious institutions during the crisis, noting the destruction of approximately 369 churches and numerous temples across the state.

Last month, Neli along with his team visited the vandalised St. Paul’s Church in Sangaiprou, Imphal. The archbishop prayed in an empty church, by an empty cross and an empty tabernacle that was destroyed. Earlier, Neli visited and prayed at St. Joseph Parish in Sugnu, Manipur.

“I tell my people: Pray for peace and reconciliation; do not give up hope,” the archbishop told Crux.

“But the instruments to Peace are very weak… The agents of peace needs to be strengthened and we need positive action from the State Government and other authorities. I pray for God’s strength and enlightenment,” Neli said.