Absolute fear caused thousands to flee for their lives during recent violent clashes on the North East Indian border. Leaving homes and belongings behind for arsonists and looters, they sought refuge wherever they could find it. Throughout the escalation of hostilities and the strategizing for recovery, World Outreach International (WOI) has worked closely with teams on the ground.
We have been able to offer support that will help them facilitate effective solutions for those in need and can now report on the following: the background to hostilities; resulting problems as well as, opportunities to practically demonstrate a commitment to, and love for, the people in this region.
Background to hostilities : The affected states are Assam and Meghalaya and recent violence is a direct result of historical tensions between two tribal groups, the Garos and Rabha.
Tensions began on Christmas Day 2010 escalating into violent clashes that prompted government officials to initiate ‘Shoot on Sight’ orders, strict curfews and to set up relief camps.
* Many lost their lives.
* Over 100,000 people, from both ethnic groups have been displaced.
* 1500 houses were burnt down in 36 villages.
Government officials repeatedly expressed the opinion that the attacks were not spontaneous and were carefully planned by underground groups. The Governor of Meghalaya, Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary remarked to media outlets that they were caused by “a case of misunderstanding fuelled by rumors and mischief-makers.”
WOI sources offer a ground assessment that likens the attacks to ‘precise ethnic cleansing.’ They report that intimidation tactics were repeatedly used to scare people into leaving their properties (including grenades in some instances), before they were burned down. Interestingly no-one was physically hurt although the emotional impact has been substantial and many continue to be very fearful.
Whole villages have been razed to the ground, with nothing left standing. Many villages are now like ghost towns with only cats and dogs scurrying around. Livestock, food and crops were also destroyed.
Resulting Problems, which are now multi-faceted:
* Politics and Religion were used to incite strife and conflict, also, attackers were perceived by many as being Christian therefore believers are now viewed with particular mistrust by their communities. This has resulted in:
* Pressure on believers to denounce their Christian faith: One Christian home was ransacked by community members and their kitchen stripped bare of food, utensils and crockery. They were warned to reconvert or face more consequences.
* The persecution of believers: Two families had their entire rubber plantations destroyed (it takes 5 years to nurture a first harvest).
* The need for wisdom for those living amidst suspicion: Christian activities are not allowed in the relief camps, even though they are government sponsored.
* A lack of Faith training resources: Our source reported seeing training materials given to house churches in affected regions had been burned.
* Church families are in need of prayer and support: Around 150 church families have either lost homes or are missing.
* Should those displaced return to the places they fled from? This is a question that is currently being worked through by individual displaced families. Whole communities are suffering and it will be some time before families are able to settle again. Some of the more prominent problems are:
* Should they re-build or re-locate?. Communities that once enjoyed harmony, integration and trust are now dealing with grief, suspicion and insecurity.
* Facing their fears. Fear is intensely felt by all. The initial fear for safety has now been replaced with fear for the future as the impact of their tremendous financial, physical and emotional losses begins to sink in.
Opportunities to practically demonstrate our commitment and love.
We are excited by the opportunity to demonstrate the loving heart of God to a people who have had their vision of Him corrupted.
Isaiah 33:6 says, “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is His treasure.” We believe that He will give those He has placed in the midst of the devastation in Assam and Meghalaya the wisdom and insight they need to strengthen the hearts of the people there.
The opportunities currently open are:
* To work towards reconciliation and healing. Praying for reconciliation between the Garo and Rabha as well as building bridges within individual communities.
* To provide finances and resources for those in need. To date we have been able to buy medicines, cooking utensils and clothing.
* To mobilize people with compassion to help with the rebuilding.
* To implement construction projects for the many homeless.
* To minister to believers in need. Helpers have been able to provide excursions for believing families in relief camps and encourage them through this time.
* Facilitating the growth of house churches in needy areas. With great wisdom.
Please pray with us for the strong witness of believers in North East India and for those we are working with to strengthen the church in this region. There are many present and future needs that rely on their faithful witness and endurance in these times.
Our regional contacts have compiled a practical list of items that will help families who have nothing. Please prayerfully consider purchasing, or donating towards the purchase of these items.
Corrugated Iron Sheets for Roof
Text and Exercise books for children
Specific donations can be made via the World Outreach International website: www.world-outreach.com/subcategory/135/default.asp
Donations to be sent “where most needed” can be made here:
Bless you and thank you for your prayers.
Bev Holmes-Brown has relocated to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia with her husband Arthur and children, taking up the role of Media Officer for the Australian office of World Outreach International. www.world-outreach.com. Bev has always had a heart for missions and founded Link-Zone, a Christian resource ministry with the purpose of encouraging Frontline Christians through prayer and finances as well as personal involvement. www.Link-Zone.net. Her e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org