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Surviving the Violence: Father Stephen Touthang’s Ordeal in Manipur

Father Stephen Touthang

In the escalating violence that swept through Manipur, India, Father Stephen Touthang found himself at the heart of a harrowing ordeal.

As the principal and parish priest of Canchipur Catholic School, he witnessed firsthand the chaos and destruction caused by mobs armed with sticks and fueled by baseless rumors.

Seeking refuge in the school and later the church, Father Touthang’s courage and determination allowed him to survive the tumultuous events. His commitment to education and his community shines through, even in the darkest moments. 

Caught in Chaos: Father Touthang’s Harrowing Experience

As the violence first erupted in the Torbung area of Manipur, fake and baseless news spread like wildfire, leading to escalated violence throughout the state, resulting in mass killings, torture, and rapes in the dominated valley against the Kuki-Zo.

While the violence was at its peak in the Meitei populous, one of the victims who escaped from the incident was Father Stephen Touthang, a Catholic priest who served as the principal and parish priest of Canchipur Catholic School, situated in the Meitei area.

The priest recounted the ordeal incident on May 3 night, saying, "First, huge mobs with sticks, some with armed weapons, shouted and banged the gate. I immediately rushed to seek refuge in Sister's convent within the same campus." After a simple ransom and vandalism on campus, the angry mobs left.

Father Touthang tells the chronology of his harrowing experience as follows: ‘’ He went back to the office to collect his documents and other personal belongings while the mob left. Then, in a second attempt at violent mobs, a large number gathered inside the campus in a crowded atmosphere."

Refuge in Desperation: Seeking Safety at Canchipur Catholic School

He had taken shelter in the school, thinking they couldn't be harmed, and destroyed the school as their children also attended this school. This time, the mobs destroyed and burned the church.

‘’While I’m inside the school, never feeling afraid, I seek assistance from some distinguished people working in the police department to rescue me. However, during the peak of violence, reports of killings, rapes, and tortures spread widely, with no immediate response from the concerned parties," the priest recalled.

He said that in the early hours of the following day, police personnel arrived at the Army camp for safety, and then proceeded to Bishop House. As the situation deteriorated over the next two days, every Kuki-Zo was compelled to flee the valley by all means, or risk death.

Father Stephen Touthang is a Catholic priest who works for the Archdiocese of Imphal. He is the current director of ‘the Catholic Educational Society Manipur’.

He is an educator, motivator, and martial artist. He holds a doctorate in education. Additionally, he holds master's degrees in English, education, sociology, and M.Ed. He also took the Teacher Eligibility Test.

Father Touthang is dedicated to inspiring the youth and thus relentlessly organizes programs focused on motivation, personality development, career counseling, goal-setting, and combating substance abuse.

He has authored many books, like ‘ Dare to Dream’, ‘The Illuminating’, ‘The Music Industry', and Career Planning Resource. His latest books are ‘The Meta Gazing’ and ‘The Mettle of Winners’. You can purchase all these books through the online app 'AMAZON'.

"Standing amid death, God's hand and protection were invisible and had taken me home safely."

Fr. Touthang

Road to Safety: God’s Invisible Hand

On May 5, 2023, the valley witnessed an escalation of violence, with widespread incidents of mass killings, torture, and sexual assaults.

The priest shared his distress, revealing that a sense of safety had been lost, as every Kuki-Zo had been affected. Despite the dangers, he returned home that morning, unescorted, relying on divine protection.

Reflecting on his experience in the valley, he described himself as "standing amid death, God's hand and protection were invisible and had taken me home safely."

Reflecting on the harrowing event, he experienced intense trauma and shock. To alleviate this, he ventured beyond Manipur State, gradually regained his composure, and ultimately arrived in Lamka to assume the role of parish priest at Good Shepherd Parish. 

‘’While in the new parish, recalling back the life of Canchipur School, I came to know that the attackers were led by the people close to him who had misunderstandings during the school management board,” Father Touthang told Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) ZO SERVICE.

He expressed that acknowledging and learning from the aspects of our lives that we cannot change is the initial step toward self-healing.

Father Touthang is renowned as the most skilled learned, and esteemed priest within the Kuki-Zo community and the wider diocesan brotherhood.

Father Stephen Touthang’s story is a testament to resilience and the unwavering spirit of those who endure violence. May his experiences inspire hope and compassion in the face of adversity.

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21 reactions

Comments

Wailad N Rymbai , May 22 2024 - 12:45am
I have experienced Fr.Stephan Orientation Program for two days in Jowai.I don't want the program to come to an end because his teaching is incredible and not a boring one.I'm inspired by his excellent skills towards teaching.
God's blessing and protection will always be with you Father. I pray 🙏 that you'll always have good
health,fit and fine.Amen 🙏