Archbishop Dominic Lumon
Nagas have come a long way in their quest for freedom, liberty and identity-probing engagement. Yet they are nowhere near the fulfillment of their quest for self-assertion, identity formation, homogenization and so on. The reason being that Nagas are scattered in different parts of the northeast region and are governed by different governments who have their own political compulsions. Hence a sense of frustration prevails in their desire to form themselves as one people. The delay is forcing some to become impatient, others are losing hope and yet there is a determined section that tells the people that if people are united, nothing is impossible.
The Ground Reality
The greatest set back today is the disunity prevailing among the different Naga communities themselves. The Naga issue has been internationalized and the sympathy around the world may be growing but the task of forging unity among the people has not been achieved. Internecine tribal warfare still continues in various parts of the Naga inhabited areas. One group of Nagas giving quit notice to another is a reality happening even these days. The hostility between the two factions of the national workers is too serious an issue that should be paid maximum attention if they wish to carry forward their desire into a reality. Their disunity is the greatest asset for those who wish to divide the Naga family as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “All your strength is in union - all your danger is in discord”.
The attainment of unity among the Nagas should be the immediate goal to be achieved. Nagas should be prepared to make sacrifices, not with bombs and bullets but with love, concern and with the practice of the principle of equality. There may be fear among the minority or small tribes that the bigger tribes may swallow them up or one community will dominate another. May be the larger or bigger communities should assure the minority communities that their interests will be taken care of, and they could become more accommodative and tolerant.
Reconciliation: A Step to Oneness
Xavier Leon-Dufour gives a picture of what reconciliation means in his Dictionary of Biblical Theology. He says that already within the Old Testament, God has prefigured the reconciliation of men with him and continues this act ceaselessly. He reveals himself as “the God of tenderness and pity” (Ex 34:6), who restrains ‘’the ardour of his wrath” (Ps 85:4,
103:8-12), and takes the initiative of a new and eternal covenant (Jer 31:31 ff)
Nothing counts before God except the unseen disposition of regenerated heart (I Tim 4:4). Christian charity leaps forth from a humble heart, a good conscience and a straightforward faith (1 Tim 1:5, 5:22). St. Paul is able to serve the Lord Jesus with a pure intention (2Tim 1:3) and he asks his disciples a pure heart from which springs forth justice, faith, charity and peace (2 Tim 2:22, 1 Tim 3:9).
We don’t need to look for an external agency to unite us. Christian faith itself offers enough scope to make us forget and bury our hatches, to make us walk on the right path. Let us remind ourselves of what St. Paul tells the Corinthians: “It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18).
According to Martin R. Tripole, “it is God who is the agent of reconciliation and Jesus is the means of reconciliation...” We need to break our needless pride. We need to break our hard and unbroken heart and water the soil of our heart with the tears of repentance. Alan Redpath warns people who are unbending: “God will never plant the seed of his life upon the soil of a hard, unbroken spirit. He will only plant that seed where the conviction of his Spirit has brought brokenness, where the soil has been watered with the tears of repentance as well as tears of joy.”
Pope Paul VI once said “a love of reconciliation is not weakness or cowardice. It demands courage, nobility, generosity, sometimes heroism, an overcoming oneself rather then of One’s adversary... it is the patient, wise act of peace, of loving, of living with one’s fellows, after the example of Christ, with strength of heart and mind modeled on his.” Therefore oneness is not going to be easy unless we put into practice what Jesus teaches us to practice in our lives as Christians.
The Practice of Forgiveness
Regarding forgiveness, the Bible has the best account of what type of attitude we need to adopt in our life and in our context. St. Peter asked, “Lord how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, ‘’No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” It means to forgive every time. It means that forgiveness must replace the thirst for revenge. We could ask ourselves, has Christianity displaced the old revengeful ways of the Nagas who hunted human heads as trophies? Revengefulness is totally against the spirit and practice of Christian faith. Oneness can come if the Nagas truly learn to forgive each from the bottom of their hearts.
Jean Paul Richeter has summarized forgiveness so beautifully. He says “Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness or else forgiving one another.” In the words of Shakespeare, mercy and forgiveness is sweet to the one who receives as well as to the one who gives it. We win by tenderness and conquer by forgiveness (Frederick W. Robertson). Therefore let us preach continuously the need to seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness and forgive those who have done wrong.
Since we claim ourselves to be fiercely Christian, the methods we adopt to ensure the attainment of our goal should be carefully considered. Needless violence and aggression should be avoided. Because we are Christians, everything we do to achieve our aim has to be blameless and pure. St. Paul writes “the one who is in Christ is a new creature. For him the old things have passed away; a new world has come... Christ has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2Cor 5: 17-18).
Dealing with a similar problem in Africa, the Council of African Churches once wrote: “Our task is to work for the expression of God’s reconciliation here and now. We are not required to wait for a distant ‘heaven’ when all problems will have been solved. What Christ has done, he has done already. We can accept his work or reject it; we can hide from it or seek to live by it. But we cannot destroy it, for it is the work of the eternal God.”
We have definitely through our acts of commission and omission estranged ourselves. We have done wrong and we should courageously accept our faults in the light of faith and ask God to renew our lives and intentions. We have created the state of animosity and hostility among ourselves and our neighbours. We have not lived as committed Christians, we have failed to love one another and foster true friendship among ourselves. We are already reconciled to God and therefore we need to live as reconciled people. We should never forget that we have been reconciled to him through Christ (2 Cor 5: 18).
Naga unity can take place only through a labour of love. Force and order will not be obeyed easily. In order to go about achieving unity or oneness in a practical way, a Reconciliation Commission needs to be set up again. Nagas have already set up human rights organization to publicize their grievances, but if Nagas want to live as one people then a reconciliation commission also should be set up. The task of the commission is to identify those who are grieving, those who have lost their livelihood, those who have lost their future that they be helped to be back on their feet. To reconstruct the society, we need to bring into our society a state of harmony of life and friendship and a relationship of peace.
Unless the grievances of the suffering are mitigated, nothing much is going to happen. Oneness and unity can be achieved only if the entire Naga people are given a proper vision for their col1ective future; it can become a reality provided every Naga is taken into confidence of what goes on their world. We pray that Naga oneness may become a reality.
Paper presented at the Christian Conference, organized by Naga Christian Forum, Manipur on October 6-9, 2006 at Tahamzam (Senapati) town.3