Prologue: Over two decades ago, someone from an international community at Baguio City, Philippines commented: “Nagas have Christ in their heart, politics in their blood.” That was a pleasant voice! I was glad Nagas are known to people across the globe. While there could be people who are totally ignorant about the Nagas in relation to our identity, culture, and land, the world today, by and large, knows that Nagas belong to a free nation. “The assertion that Nagas are free people and Naga territory remains Independent is an incontrovertible fact of history and an accepted reality” (Naga Chronicles, p. 553). Even those who deny it with their lips are bound to believe it in their heart. And we, Nagas, must be thoroughly convinced that we are free in spirit even in the political chain of bondage. Therefore, no true Naga can neither tolerate the betrayal of the Nagas by the British nor accept the forced occupation in Naga-lands and dominion by the Indians.
This historical fact gives the Nagas indisputable right to fight for sovereignty from the hands of their oppressors. However, history tells us that, Nagas have been working hard for a common cause without working together. Insincerity on the part of India is ridiculously obvious. Nevertheless, we have also become a stumbling block to our own genuine aspirations. Human frailties such as, ideological differences, leadership crisis, love for position, power struggle, and materialism have overshadowed our common goal as a nation.
It is disheartening to recollect our past memories when there was rampant homicide among the Naga brethren ever since crisis erupted and disintegrated the national workers. The saddest part was that, lives were eliminated in the name of Naga sovereignty under the banner of “Nagaland for Christ!”
If a Kingdom is Divided: On one occasion, Jesus exposed the bad theology and faulty logic of the religious leaders who thought power struggle could bring victory. Jesus emphatically stated: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (Mark 3:24). At one point of time, “Naga society was torn apart with ‘inter-factional’ violence, suspicion, distrust, and divisive political rhetoric” (FNR document, “Naga Reconciliation – A Public Statement,” p.1). That was when the Nagas became so divided! Over-ambitiousness for the ‘kingdom’ that was presumed to be at hand turned many into “fighting for the ‘head’ before the ‘wild boar’ is hunted down.”
Fighting for supremacy seldom yields positive result in the real sense when it come to common cause, but united a nation can stand, indeed! Factional conflict reached its peak in the late nineties, but thanks be to God; He intervened and brought about Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) as His instrument of reconciliation and peace. FNR was born as a divine gift from the Lord to the Nagas beyond borders.
Unity without God is Vanity: The Babel Tower narrative tells us that, unity without God is vanity. The descendants of Noah living in the area of Mesopotamia called Shinar in Babylon decided to build a tall, proud symbol of how great they had made their nation. The Babylonians wanted a tower that would “reach to the heavens” so that they could be like God and that they would not need Him. They began to construct a great ziggurat. They were thoroughly united in all aspects, but their endeavor turned out to be a total failure because there was no God in their unity. The tower was named ‘The Tower of Babel’ because the word Babel means confusion. This story is a powerful reminder of how important it is to obey God’s Word and to not think that we can build a successful but godless life on our own! (Genesis 11)
Several peace initiatives were conducted by the churches, organizations, and concerned individuals so as to bring the warring brothers and sisters together for reconciliation even prior to the birth of FNR. Perhaps, attempts were sincere, efforts were sacrificial, and the goal was ideal; however, God was misplaced! Going by the cliché, “God helps those who help themselves,” but God also helps those who cannot help themselves, provided his intervention is sought.
At times, human’s best efforts become futile because men and women have limited potential on certain complex issues. Reconciliation among various groups of Naga national workers was no exception. Yes, sometimes, God is in the team but he is given a back seat. Only if God is at-the-wheel, the riders experience a smooth ride.
God Took the Wheel: The FNR was formed on 24 February 2008 as one of the outcomes of the Naga Peace Convention organized by Naga Shisha Hoho in Dimapur. The initial revelation of God through his servant Mr. Chosai for the formation of Naga Shisha Hoho came in the year 1991. The work of God through Naga Shisha Hoho gained its ground among the Nagas after its Third Gathering in Kohima in the month of Febraury 1994 (Thoputso, Chairman of Naga Shisha Hoho, 2018). The literal translation of Shisha Hoho is “Doing in Obedience,” which may be more appropriately stated as “Obedience in Action” or “Acts of Obedience.”
This time, God took the wheel, and FNR was christened on 25 March 2008 at Kohima with the support of 39 Naga frontal organizations and churches (FNR Reflection on the Public Interactions, p. 1). FNR may not be directly reckoned as the offspring of Naga Shisha Hoho; nonetheless, God has used the latter to manifest his will towards the reconciliation endeavor among the Nagas through the former.
Therefore, from the inception of FNR, it is observed that God is being given the rightful place in the undertakings of FNR and God has done marvelous things thus far! God does not do the work of men and women what they’re expected to do, he does what men and women cannot do. What was next to impossible in the past became “impossible possibility” by the power of God. FNR has achieved much because God has acted. Out of significant Reconciliation Agreements among the Naga National Groups, Covenant of Reconciliation signed on 13 June 2009, A Public Affirmation singed on 28 September 2009, Joint Appeal signed on 10 March 2010, Statement signed on 22 August 2011, Meeting of Naga Leaders on 24-25 August 2011, Naga Concordant signed on 26 August 2011, and Lenten Agreement signed on 28 March 2014 are worth mentioning (Naga Reconciliation-A Public Statement, pp.3-4). When God takes the wheel, progress is always evident and significant!
Epilogue: In the words of Gerald Brooks, “Each of us must decide whether we will live down to our problems or up to our God-given potential. The reality is, most people’s problems aren’t really big; rather, most people make God out to be too small” (Big Problems, Bigger God). One of the very natures of God is that, He is a reconciling God. Therefore those who claim to be His people are bound to reconcile with one another, but true reconciliation will come when we first reconcile ourselves with God, for if we are not right with God nothing can be right no matter how seemingly good our relationship with one another may appear to be. Hence, the NPGs in particular and the Nagas in general must revisit the Word of God in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” And, yes, obey all that God has commanded.
When a nation reconciles with God, God Himself reconciles His people into one family under His household. The Assyrians of Nineveh were typical example of how reconciling with God restored the people into a forgiven people (Jonah 3:10). God must be honored. Hatred and division must become a thing of the past; reconciliation and unity must become our unflinching slogan both in words and deeds.
Continuing the Journey of Common Hope, not by might or by the wisdom of men and women alone, but led by the Spirit of God will take FNR a long way. If Nagas must see a break-through in Naga Reconciliation to facilitate and usher in Naga Sovereignty, God must be at-the-wheel!
About the author:
*Chekrovei Cho-o teaches Applied Theology at Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS), Bade, Dimapur. He is the Director of Center for Pastoral Renewal, an initiative of OTS. He is also a member of Worship Commission, Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Views expressed in this article are personal.