Gospel for Asia leaders in Assam are asking believers to pray as ethnic violence in that northeast Indian state escalates. Nearly 70 people have died during recent months at the hands of militant extremists tied to the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). This extremist group, which was formed in 1979, espouses a Communist ideology.

Gospel for Asia missionaries operate 50 churches in two areas of Assam where the violence has been the worst. While no believers from these churches have been harmed, they have witnessed much of the violence first hand and live in constant fear. GFA pastors Fardeen Wakde and Dayal Thomas minister in this area and are asking believers around the world to pray for the safety of all Christians there and for a peaceful end to the violence.

In another district in Assam, a GFA Bible college is struggling because of the violence. The rebels have blockaded the main roads leading in and out of the district, preventing more than half of the students from returning for the beginning of a new term in early January. Vamsi Shastri, the school’s headmaster, seeks prayer for safety and protection of the staff, students and school buildings. There are about 60 students enrolled in the Bible college.

GFA leaders in Assam also seek prayer for the overall political situation in the state. The government of India has officially outlawed ULFA, labeling it a terrorist organization. However, the group is still going strong. It describes itself as a revolutionary political organization engaged in a liberation struggle with the country of India. Its goal is to establish Assam as a sovereign, independent country, apart from the rest of India.

During recent months, the most violent outbursts were directed at Assam’s Hindi speakers, many of whom are from the neighboring state of Bihar. They came to Assam to work in the manual labor jobs, such as brick making, selling vegetables working in the shops and on the state’s famous tea plantations. Thousands of these settlers are fleeing Assam after a December 31 incident in which the rebels killed seven laborers.

Read related story: Assam Ethnic Violence Escalates