North-eastern Indian provinces of Mizoram and Nagaland are facing difficulties in providing shelters to Christian refugees from Myanmar.
India has expressed serious concern about the scenario, as majority of the refugees are women and children. According to the refugees, Christians are being tortured by the Arakan Army in Myanmar. They informed the Indian authorities that women, children and the disabled persons have been driven out from the country, while men are being used as labourers. Although the local administration in Mizoram has provided refugees with shelters and foods, the Indian government has asked them to return to their country.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs recently said in a statement that the first batch of refugees arrived in Khaikhi and Lungpuk villages in Saiha District of Mizoram on May 19. Later, 200 more refugees crossed the border to take shelter in India. One of the refugees said that Mizoram is the ideal place to take shelter as they share same language and culture with the local ‘Mara’ tribal community. He also said that the ongoing war between the Myanmarese Army and mine mafia near the international border prompted them to leave their motherland. As per the Indo-Myanmar treaty, people from both sides of the border can come up to 15km inside the neighbouring country.
Immediately after receiving the information that hundreds of Myanmarese refugees arrived in Mizoram and Nagaland, the Indian Army built makeshift camps for them and also distributed food and medicines.
American journalist Thomas Reese has explained the current political situation in Myanmar, saying that abuses against religious freedom have reached crisis proportions in the South-east Asian country, where Rohingya Muslims and Christians are suffering terribly despite the nation’s small steps toward democracy. Although Catholicism had been in Myanmar for 500 years, the situation for Christians deteriorated after the military coup in 1962.
In 1999, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) mentioned in a report that Myanmar was one of the world’s worst religious freedom abusers. Earlier this year, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi made a rare visit to conflict-stricken border areas, where she met civil society groups and Catholic and Baptist church officials to promote her national peace initiatives. India and other countries in the region welcomed Suu Kyi’s initiative and urged Myanmar to defend religious freedom and stop the persecution and violence against Christian and Muslim minorities.
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