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IMPHAL, India (LifeSiteNews) – Authorities in the Indian state of Manipur have bulldozed three Christian churches as part of a land dispute dating back several years, despite at least one of them having stood for half a century.

The Wire reported that Evangelical Baptist Convention Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church Manipur, and Catholic Holy Spirit Church were demolished last month as “illegal constructions” on government land without documented permission, days after the Manipur high court reversed a 2020 ruling that had allowed them to remain standing.

The bulldozing was reportedly conducted in the early morning, with a substantial security presence onsite and many local Christians praying outside. Chief minister N. Biren Singh declined to comment beyond reiterating that the action was being taken pursuant to a court order.

India’s Northeast Live added that the churches were built between 1974 and 1997, with representatives saying they stood and operated without incident for most of that time.

“The government eviction notice came on December 24, 2020, and the high court protected the status quo for around three years,” pastor Nehgzahau V. Haupi said. “Now the high court has quashed our status quo, and things happened like this. I am so pained about this because in this church we do not teach any bad things to the people. We teach how to beave [sic, presumably believe or behave] in the world, even in the public. We learn good things in this place, so it is too bad. It is a great loss for the state also.”

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“We asked our people to pray for peace, will build churches again on authorized land, and be vigilant as it should not turn as disharmony in the locality,” the United Christian Forum of North East India said of the demolition. “The church leaders have expressed their deep pain and sorrow at the demolition of the three churches in Manipur immediately after Easter … Under these circumstances, we appeal to all the faithful to continue to pray for peace and harmony while standing united.”

Christians represent just 2.3% of the population of predominantly Hindu India, although Manipur’s population is 41% Christian. Last year, the Indian state Karnataka’s capital city of Bangalore demolished a statue of Jesus Christ over another dispute about whether it had been illegally built on government land.

As violence now spreads through the area, LifeSiteNews asks for your prayers for the wife of one of our colleagues and her family. Joicy (pronounced Joyce) is visiting her relations near Imphal. A case has been opened with the Canadian High Commission in Delhi.