[Field Report] Poor Christians are converting to Judaism to survive
▲ Pastor Jungha Won is having an interview with the bishop. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

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Visiting the stie of the “Aliyah Ministry” in the Indian Jewish Repatriation Operation (2)

In Manipur, India, descendants of the Kuki tribe, who belong to the tribe of Manasseh, who inhabited the northern kingdom, and who are believed to be “B’nai Meneses,” reside in Manipur, India. Some Korean churches are putting a considerable amount of financial and effort into the “Aliyah Ministry” to help them return to their homeland according to the words of the Bible. Pastor Jungha Won, a correspondent for this series as an Indian missionary, visited the site and heard the opinions of local Christians on these people. <Editor>

<Interview 1. Manipur Gospel Lutheran Church Headquarters>

This is the interview with Rev. Dr. S.K. Manlun who is a bishop of Manipur Evangelical Lutheran Church in the province of Manipur. For the interview, there were the pastor Rev. Kam minthang, who is also a mission director, of the Manipur Evangelical Lutheran Church; missionary Chao Tao  and his son Dave; and our brother Jerry, who is a son of the Kuki tribe chief.

Q: I heard that there are many Kuki people in Manipur who believe in Judaism. I heard that last year, many Christians in South Korea raised about 2.18 million rupees ($276,000) for them and sent 548 local Jews to Israel. However, since the Kuki are almost 100% Christians, I am concerned about whether there are any converts from Christianity to Judaism because of this.

A of the bishop : “There are Jews who have converted from Christianity in Manipur. They began to convert many years ago, and converts continue to appear in recent years. The converts are sent to Israel according to the year of conversion. Some of them have already been sent to Israel and some are on a waiting list to be sent to Israel. According to Wikipedia, there are about 10,000 B’nai Meneses, of whom 4,000 have already settled in Israel. 6500 are still in India. In 2021, 548 people settled in Israel with the support of a Korean institution.”

I have never heard the word “B’nai Meneses” in a mouth of the people of Manipur. The people of Manipur used to use the expression “Sabat people (Sabbath keepers)” or “Judaism people (Jewish people).” This is probably because they do not believe in “Zhuish (Jew)” or “Manasseh” by descent.

The synagogue reads “Since 1976.” Picture from: Jungha Won

Q: When was the synagogue built in Manipur?

bishop : “The synagogue was built long ago. In the past, the number of people was small, but now the number of people is increasing day by day. Christians of various denominations in the region are converting to Judaism. This is also the case in the Kangra region near Churachandpur. Usually, in the Kuki people, wen poor people migrate to another area to live a better life, they have to borrow land from the king (a chief) (usually, in this area, the expression “king” seems to be used more than “chief”) of the area they migrated to. However, if people cannot pay rent or land use, they cannot settle down or return to the village from which they left. In this case, the king (the chief) gives a piece of land, reduces the rent or usage fee, and forces them to convert to Judaism instead of supporting their settlement. Most Christians who convert to Judaism are poor and needy people who have no means of livelihood in India (Manipur), and they are forced to convert to Judaism in order to survive.”


There are several tribes in northeastern India, each with a king. In case of the Kuki of “Churachandpur,” the center of “Aliyah” movement, the idea “all lands of the tribe belong to the king” is strong. Therefore, in order for a person or family enter the territory of the tribe and earn a living, he/she has no choice but to buy or rent land from the king (a piece of land is rarely sold).

bishop : “However, these days, the number of hands for the war between tribes is not so necessary (the most recent tribal warfare was in the late 1990s). Income from rent is not very large, and farming technology is advanced, so fewer manpower is required. Further, due to wildlife protection laws, very few make a living by hunting. Moreover, although kings are recognized as masters of the land from generation to generation by the tribal community, it is not that they received official titles from the Indian government. Therefore, if someone who has lived on the same land for a long time decides to cause a riot, it could be a chaos. Now is not the time for a king to judge and mobilize the army, so there is an atmosphere of wanting to reduce the possession of land disputes in the future as much as possible. As a result, most Kuki kings (Christians) became very reluctant to accept migrants into their territory.

However, the Jewish villages regularly relocate to Israel by hundreds or thousands of key members with money received from foreign countries. Since a king himself and his family and those who have believed in Judaism for a long time migrated first, succession to the throne is made by distant relatives. The size of the land remains the same, but the population decreases and new kings appear, so the burden of receiving people from outside is relatively low. Then, if some people of the Jewish villages go back to Israel, the positions are filled by other converts.”

Q: Are there people who convert to Judaism, go to Israel, and then come back to Manipur?

bishop : “No, there are not. When they arrive in Israel, they do not return because they have been granted Israeli citizenship. They come only occasionally to visit relatives, but there are no cases of resettlement in India, that I know of.”

The street of Churachandpur. Picture from: Jungha Won

missionary Chao : “Are there specific tribe, villages, or communities that claim to be a lost tribe? For example, some say that the Kuki of Churachandpur are of Jewish descent. However, the Kuki people of the Senapati region where I live don’t say anything like that at all.  They are all 100% Christians. If they were a really old Jewish community, I believe that the same tradition should have been shared with the Kuki tribe from other regions than Churachandpur…”

bishop : “No, there are no specific tribe, villages, or communities. Anyone who converts to Judaism is considered a Jew. Especially, there are people who are Christians but not strong-rooted and hang out with friends who have embraced Judaism, if they hear many times that if they convert they can go to Israel one day and get citizenship, they easily leave Christianity. On the contrary, it is very difficult to convert Jews back to Christians. We are diligently preaching the gospel, though.”

Lutheran Church Mission Director Kam Min Tang : “Three tribes in Manipur, part of the “Kuki” and part of the “Mizo” and “Min” peoples of Churachandpur region, believe themselves to be Jews.  However, they are people who have been Christians from a long time ago (since time immemorial) that cannot be remembered. If one tribe were all descended from one tribe of Manasseh, they must be Jewish as a tribe, how could the tribe of Manasseh be spread among three different peoples? As Christians, we, Kuki Lutheran Church people, are preaching the gospel by sending eight missionaries to the valleys where the Meitei (the only non-Christian people group in Manipur) live. However, unfortunately, Christians here in Churachandpur are converting to Judaism.”

Q: Have you every seen a problem with a family being torn apart by a member’s conversion to Judaism?

bishop : “There was such a case in our church. The parents are still Christians, but their son converted to Judaism.”

Q: As Christians, what can we do to prevent this conversion to Judaism?

bishop : “We should thoroughly protect our people (the Kuki people). We must block all false teachings including Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th day Sabbath, Judaism, and so on, and we are to preach a Biblical teaching fully. In the case of my denomination, without my permission, right at this office (the office of the bishop), no one is supposed to preach the words in a church in my denomination.”

Q: Many Korean Christians believe that they are supporting the Jews of Manipur and this is for the glory of God. Do you have any messages for them?

bishop : “We do not envy Koreans spending large sums of money helping the Manipur Jews. However, in using money as Christians, there should be three criteria. First, money should be used for the glory of the Lord. Second, money should be used for spreading gospel. Third, money should be spent for the benefit of the saints.  However, it seems that the Korean churches helping the Jews in Manipur belongs to none of the three. Korean mission agencies and Christians need to first study the proper history of the places and people where their funds will be used. Are the funds you raised really being used properly for the glory of God? We (Manipur Lutheran Church) have been working hard to partner with the Lutheran Church in Finland, and it took about a year to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

People from the Lutheran Church in Finland studied and observed our Manipur Gospel denomination diligently, and very carefully considered whether the funds they would spend would be used here. Even after the MOU was signed, we always have meetings through Zoom, and continue to share information. Likewise, it is also necessary for Korean institutions (churches) to properly study the environment in which their finances will be used.

From left to right, Jungha Won (myself), Bishop of the Lutheran Church, Dave, missionary Chao, and manager of missionary department of the Lutheran Church. Picture from: Jungha Won

Closing the interview

The bishop showed a very cautious attitude at first. I think this may be because people from Korea or the United States often ask questions with the desired answer (They even attached a clue that there were lost Jews in this area) when they bring up this question. In fact, Churachampur is a village that is completely unknown to the world except for Manipur Jews. However, he showed his sincerity towards the end of the interview. When I asked him for a message for the Korean churches at the end, he spoke very harshly, as if rebuking the churches, and I felt sorry and I didn’t know what to do… However, I was grateful because it was a proof that he had opened his heart that much. In the next episode, an interview with a pastor of a local church will be posted. <To be continued> [Gospel Prayer News]

Jungha Won | Indian local correspondent

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[Field Report] How should we see the Korean churches’ operation to repatriate Jews

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