Baptists work for peace, relief amid ethnic violence in India

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptist leaders called for global prayer for peacemaking efforts and for churches and communities affected by ethnic strife in northeast India.

According to the Baptist World Alliance, the Garo Baptist Convention mobilized relief efforts to temporary camps set up for an estimated 50,000 people displaced by fighting between two tribal groups that began Jan. 1.

"Many villages have been torched and people left homeless," reported Wanne Garrey of the Garo Baptist Convention. She said church leaders were "trying their best to calm down the situation."

At least 10 people have died and an estimated 2,000 houses burned in serious conflict between the Garo and Rabha communities in the border area of Meghalaya and Assam states in northeast India.

Meghalaya is one of three Indian states with a Christian majority. More than 70 percent of inhabitants are practicing Christians. That includes a sizeable Baptist community. The Garo Baptist Convention has more than 2,500 churches and nearly 250,000 baptized members. Baptist history in the area dates to the work of American Baptist missionaries that began in 1836.

Rettair Momin, general secretary of the Garo Baptist Convention, sent out an urgent prayer request for the situation Jan. 6.

Atungo Shitri, secretary of the Justice and Peace Department of the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India, immediately organized a delegation to visit the affected area.

"We are going to meet with the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police, and appeal to them to provide adequate security to affected villages," Shitri said in a Jan. 7 e-mail to Benjamin Chan of American Baptist Churches USA International Ministries. "If the situation allows, we will also visit the two communities and offer relief assistance and peaceful solution."

Debbie Mulneix, International Ministries' liaison to churches of India and Nepal, was reported safe as she traveled in Assam.

According to Indian media, about 12,500 people have returned to their villages after spending more than a week in relief camps. A curfew in the area was lifted Jan. 19. 


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