Many Christians living in Imphal valley, including the Meitei Christians, have decided to forego the Christmas celebration this year considering the situation and in solidarity with the people especially those in the relief camps.
This year, Manipur is in a very sad situation, said 39-year-old Lanchunglu Gangmei who sells used/second-hand clothes in New Checkon about the current situation of the state.
“I hope the ongoing conflict ends and we start anew to see peace that had long existed in the state before the crisis broke out,” she expressed.
She said that for the last two years she has been selling second-hand clothes, earning a good amount especially during the festive seasons like Christmas. However, this year has been different as there are hardly any customers due to the crisis. Hence, she and her family will be celebrating Christmas in a small way and not like the years before.
“This year, we have decided to celebrate Christmas with a small gathering of family members and prayer at Church”, said Lanchunglu.
As a gesture of support and solidarity to the state in these hard times, she said that they will not be celebrating Christmas like the previous years.
Pastor A Shyam Meetei of Victory Church Imphal also said that they will not be celebrating Christmas this year like the previous years.
“No, we are not going to celebrate Christmas this year. How can we celebrate Christmas during this crucial time. We will not celebrate because we don’t have a place to pray and celebrate,” he said, adding that “almost 99 per cent of Meitei Christian churches were vandalized during the violence”.
We can’t enter those Churches however, in some churches that are still standing, we will pray for peace, said the Pastor.
“Jesus Christ is the prince of peace and I convey from my heart that the peace of heaven may reign in the hearts of people of Manipur”, the Pastor said.
Regina Golmei, a woman vendor of New Lambulance, New Checkon said that there will be no big celebration for Christmas like the previous year. Her family will go to church for prayer and a small gathering will be held in the family, she said of the celebration.
“Every year, we begin the celebration of Christmas with early December decorations and the buying of new clothes. However, this year due to the ongoing crisis, the environment of celebration is not seen”, said Regina.
The crisis has practically affected everyone including other tribal communities. And in respect to the hardships being faced, we are not celebrating, she added.
Meanwhile, the Manipur state government has assured India’s top court that it will facilitate arrangements for Christians living in relief camps to celebrate Christmas.
The assurance came during the Dec. 15 hearing in the Supreme Court on a bunch of petitions from indigenous people seeking relief and justice from the atrocities committed against them during the riots.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), a forum in Churachandpur district, has also called for low-key Christmas and New Year celebrations.
The forum on December 13 called on community members “not to indulge in overtly conspicuous celebrations” because of the current situation prevailing in the state.
It also urged all churches to have only the normal Church service and not organize any feasts and fellowship events.
“We cannot imagine celebrating Christmas or New Year when our brothers and sisters are languishing in relief camps for the past eight months,” a Christian leader said.
The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud sought to know from the state government what steps it had taken to restore places of worship destroyed during the riots.
The bench also directed the state government to furnish a comprehensive list of places of worship destroyed during the violence within two weeks. The list has to be presented to a committee appointed by the top court to look into the violence.
Both the Kuki and Meitei communities have reported the loss of their religious worship places such as temples and churches during the violence.