Given its painful history of abused usage, a discussion of “Nagaland for Christ” inevitably becomes an examination and assessment of
1. Human aspirations, the struggles and the slogans for them,
2. The consequences of the methods and means we adopt in the struggles to achieve our aspirations.
And what becomes clear is that God allows all human aspirations, dreams and ambitions. But there is a catch; the problem or the beauty, depending on how we see life on earth. He requires our methods and means to achieve our aspirations should be right and selfless so that in our pursuit of what we long for we are already deeply satisfied and happy, as we are contributing to the building of His kingdom on earth. Revolutionaries and reformers call it “the just, sustainable society”. We are discussing the purpose and meaning of life on earth, the existential issues which if we ignore produce the beginnings of hell for ourselves and others. But to decide to face them and to simply become committed “to be the change you want to see in the world” as God will guide you, is to discover your calling and the fulfillment of your life meant for you. We may rebel against this requirement as suffocating or tyrannical. Or we may accept it as His infinite wisdom realizing that what we mistake for His oppressive shadow over us is actually “shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly” guiding us to achieve the highest good for the human race in which everyone’s part is important! “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. If we care enough and share enough, everyone will have enough”. This exquisite delicate balance makes it clear everyone is decisively important.
The coming of Christianity to the Nagas was part of the impact on us by changes from outside. The intense crisis of the struggle understandably made our people to turn to their new religion for solace and affirmation. The result was the prayer, and war cry, “Nagaland for Christ!” which became an additional slogan of the struggle. It revealed an instinctive search to strengthen the struggle by spiritually widening and deepening its meaning. “Nagaland for Christ” should be understood in the context in which it was born and declared by desperate men and women as they bore the terrible brunt of the consequences of what they had launched. They had not counted the cost of the stand they had taken because their perception of their history up to their time and their honour as a people gave them no other choice but to act as they did.
The Naga struggle marks the beginning of the written modern history of our people. Our pioneer leaders concluded from the facts of our history, as understood by them, that Nagas were fully entitled to be a people and a nation, if they wanted to. This perception and conclusion produced the political struggle that has gone on actively for almost three-quarters of a century. Without doubt the majority of our people supported this struggle and sacrificed greatly for it.
But there are vital truths we need to accept from what has happened to “Nagaland for Christ” and the heroic Naga struggle because of the way we have pursued them, and what they have done to our society consequently. No one needs to be told we are in a crisis that is truly baffling. But we should welcome it, as according to the wisdom of ancient China a crisis means a moment of great Danger and great Opportunity. We will discover that if we will decide to help one another to concentrate on the opportunities in our crisis we will go forward as God’s plan is for us. But we will drag one another down our jointly-created Black Hole because we are thoughtless and without imagination beyond what instantly gratifies. In Tenyidie it is ‘Ketheguo’. Angamis for sure are discovering what this unexamined thought from our past of severe deprivations is doing to us. We are beginning to question our disturbing compulsive tendency to go for a picnic at the slightest provocation.
Socrates’ wisdom “A life not examined is not worth living” is often quoted. We have found the struggle of a people for their aspirations also becomes impossible to pursue, even unworthy of respect, if truthful reality checks are not done frequently, whether the struggle is “over ground” or “underground”.
Looking back at our journey thus far, it will be correct to say the struggle launched by the Naga National Council consolidated and rallied the Naga tribes to take the first steps towards their common goal to become a nation. After a magnificent launching it went on to produce a series of uncontrollable mentally and spiritually disturbed children, so to speak, namely, the State of Nagaland, the Revolutionary Government of Nagaland, NSCN, NSCN (IM) and (K), NNC (Acc) and (non-Ac), Unification and so on. Deep down all of us are proud of our clean parental origin, but we all feel guilty for what we cannot deny we have all done to our old parent. It may not be wrong to go to the extent of saying that the overwhelming crisis produced other monstrosities, chief among them being chemical addiction, corruption and extortion. There is no room for anyone judging any one here because we have all contributed our shares to whatever we have today. We seem incapable of addressing the monsters because we find our experience and thinking are way below what is required for today’s issues. This view cannot be dismissed entirely. Therefore, we have to ask why we have come to what Roman historian Titus Livius said of his society in the first century AD: “We have reached the point where we cannot bear either our vices or their cure?”
Like all new travellers on the road of history tend to do, (often not knowing they’re doing it), we Nagas also too easily pull every new thing we find on our journey down to our level to suit ourselves instead of understanding them properly to discover what we are required to do with them, asking what our response to them should be. Our reckless manipulation of everything for instant solutions and enjoyment regardless of the consequences has made proper growth of our society impossible.
Consider our Christianity? The most obvious thing to say is that as far as God is concerned, Christianity has to be done not our human way, but His way, as His Son showed, living and carrying the Cross all the way from the beginning of His mission to Gethsemane and ending up on Calvary. Judging by what Jesus said in Gethsemane and then on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, even for Him the vibrant dawn of Easter He gave to mankind was a discovery He had not foreseen because He was so human. But He inaugurated Christianity by his costly obedience saying, “But your will be done, not mine”.
What has happened over the years to “Nagaland for Christ” shows what happens when we are more interested in the fruits of Christianity than in the health of the tree of Christianity, or we are more interested in the outcome than in the quality of the process that produces the outcome. We do this if we don’t understand or care for the importance of the “Doctrine of Ends and Means”, because what we want is more important to us than the methods and means we adopt to get it.
British historian, Arnold Toynbee said, “All of history can be written in two small words: Challenge and Response. … Each society progresses only to the extent it meets its challenges”. This is a fundamental principle for any people or individual aspiring to be something. We are never more than the quality of our response to the challenges that confront us in the changing situations of life. By our judging of others for the divisions and differences of our society from our subjective, restricted perceptions only we have produced together what we have today, factions condemning one another as puppets, traitors, sell-outers, and what have you. But if we can climb out of our tribal and factional trenches from where we have been firing murderous words and bullets at one another, we will discover that the different stands and paths different groups have taken are really different responses to the challenges of changes differently perceived by different people. In the places of those we have judged wouldn’t we too have responded as they did? A great thought of the American natives put in a song by David Mills says,
“Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins,
Walk a while in another man’s shoes,
Before you leave him condemned forever
Put on his boots there’s nothing to lose;
Live a day with another man’s family,
Live a day by another man’s side –
Years of hurt can end and a foe become a friend
As you find that he is just the same as you inside.”
We should realize that responding adequately to challenges of changing situations is a most difficult thing to do. We all make mistakes in our responses. Therefore our urgent need is compassionate understanding and forgiving of one another within the Naga family. None of us is completely happy with the way we have responded to the opportunities and dangers our crisis compelled us to face. If we can simply be transparent about the things that deep down we regret we did or failed to do, we will be surprised by the speedy restoration of trust and hope that will result from it. Nagaland for Christ will be starting to happen the way it should without us being so aggressive, panicky and violent to bring it about.
- Forum For Naga Reconciliation: An Appraisal (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)
- From tenuous to permanent peace (thehindu.com)
- Peace Mission’s Proposals 1964 (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)
- The Afspa 1958: a Review From Nagaland After 52 Years (nagalandjournal.wordpress.com)