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The church in the predominantly Christian northeastern state of Mizoram is grappling to fight a bizarre phenomenon of tribal youths worshipping Satan, seeking supernatural powers to perform miracles.

‘The trend is nothing but shocking,’ Reverend Vanlalchhungah, moderator of the Mizoram Presbyterian Synod, told IANS.

The Synod has appointed a group of clerics from the Theological College in Aizawl to probe growing reports of youths invoking Satan in desolate cemeteries by offering blood from self-inflicted wounds.

‘The youths often cut their wrist with blades and then suck their own blood as an offering to Satan. They want to do wonders or miracles by invoking Satan,’ said Reverend L.H. Rawsealh, a faculty member of the Theological College investigating the weird practice.

The genesis of this trend dates back to 2000 with community elders and church leaders citing incidents of youths practicing such bizarre things inspired by television shows and films about the paranormal and the occult.

‘Most of the cases that we have heard were being practised by youths who are drug addicts and influenced by films,’ said Reverend Chuauthuama, a senior church leader and a lecturer at the Theological College.

The revelations have shocked people in Mizoram, where close to 90 percent of the under one million people are Christians.

‘The art of black magic, demonology or maybe superstitious beliefs imbibed on these power hungry youths could be reasons,’ Chuauthuama said. In some places, the youths were reported to have desecrated church buildings and the pulpits, besides burning down Bibles.

‘We estimate there could be about 300-400 such youths in Mizoram who are doing these things. We don’t know if some outside forces were encouraging our youths to go astray,’ Rawsealh said.

The church is now engaged in a mission to stop devil worship.

‘Through sermons, public meetings and other such platforms we have been trying to stop these evil practices from spreading further,’ Reverend Vanlalchhungah said.

About a dozen such youths were reformed in recent months by church leaders and local pressure groups like the Young Mizo Association.

‘We were told that one could attain supernatural powers and do wonders. When we were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, we literally believed we could do anything. But then in reality it is not,’ a reformed youth said on condition of anonymity.

Police said a group of young boys and girls were found invoking Satan by chanting hymns inside a cemetery late in the night with a monkey skull kept in the middle.

”God is Satan’ is what was written on the monkey skull and the group offered blood by slashing their wrist, besides pouring alcohol,’ the police official said.

Mizoram, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, is India’s second highest literate state next only to Kerala. A majority of the Christians in Mizoram are Presbyterians.

There are an estimated 95 different Christian cults in Mizoram with strange practices – some of them do not allow their children to mingle with others and attend schools, while some of the sects claim their members to be gods.

The Mizo tribal people were animists until two British Baptist missionaries William Frederick Savidge ad J.H. Lorrain first landed in the hills of Mizoram sometime in 1894

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