Tuesday, 15 July 2003

Guwahati (Fides Service) – A Catholic Archbishop succeeded in bringing feuding tribal groups in the east Indian State of Assam to make peace. Mgr Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati offered to mediate to try to put an end to the conflict between the Dimasa and Hmar tribes people after three similar government attempts failed. Violent fighting in the past three months between ethnic groups in the mountainous district of Cahar in Assam state left more than one hundred dead and a thousand homeless. The plan put forward by the Archbishop to persuade the sides to make peace was simple: “stop violence, stop provoking statements, start meetings for dialogue and collaboration”. The sides agreed to take part in the meetings inaugurated by the Archbishop and now peaceful co-existence has been resumed.
At the root of the conflict were economic and political questions connected with land. The Dimasa have lived in Assam for a long time and in recent years have reached a good level of civilisation. The Hmar have a much higher level of instruction. Whereas among the Damasa there are no Christians, most of the Hmar are Christians, Baptists and Presbyterians. The fact that no Catholics were involved in the matter facilitated the work of Archbishop Menamparampil, seen by both sides as a neutral mediator. His action was delicate but pragmatic and effectively persuasive.
This is not the first time that the Archbishop of Guwahati exercises his peace-building charisma. In 1996 he helped the re-pacification of Bodo and Adivisi peoples and in 1997 he solved a long-running dispute between Kuki and Paite in Manipur. For his valuable work to solve conflicts Archbishop Menamparampil has received recognition from many sides. In Guwahati he opened a Peace Centre for the theoretical and practical study of reconciliation, non-violence and peace. PA (Fides Service 15/7/2003 EM lines 25 Words: 305)