By: B.Thohii Shuru
The Lenten Agreement signed by the three political groups marks the new chapter for “Naga reconciliation: a journey of common hope”. Symbolically, the timing and the word ‘Lenten’ have meaning to the biblical significance in which the process needs to orient in that direction. A close read up on the Republic Day speeches of the collective leaders of Naga political groups this year show positive commitment to engage in reconciliation for common future. Also reading between the lines one finds a departure from the kind of previous years’ speeches which are, more often than not, intent with hatred and viciously vitriolic content of intolerance indulging in self-exoneration.
In the twists and turns of the history of Naga national movement came the tragedy of the fall to Naga politics of factions, the fall out of dissension, discord, and rebellion within the Naga nationalists, and in consequence of it saw many wrongs committed for which we are seeking redemption today. Fratricidal killing has caused grave dehumanisation of lives and has bogged Naga communities to moral and social disarray. Ills of intra-contradictions, dissension, righteous attitude, and pseudo-Christian attitude prevailing within the Naga communities continue to be the main hurdle for achieving ultimate reconciliation. Therefore, the Naga leaders need to rethink in radically different term about a system that would help restore peace to our broken communities, shattered by past wrongs.
Six years ago, the FNR initiated the bold process of reconciliation to rebuild trust between the Naga leaders and accept the truth of, ‘reconciliation is a political necessity’ for an honourable Naga political solution. The latest efforts of the FNR need serious and sincere engagement from our leaders of Naga political groups, not just paper agreement. So, a valid question to ask is, why should our leaders find it so hard to reconcile each other in the spirit of Christian?
Secular worldview – be it naturalism, eastern pantheism, the new age, post modern secularism, liberation theologies, or a host of others have all failed to offer redemption to world chaos. All these worldview have failed to escape its own contradictions or disastrous implications. But Christian worldview, as studies showed, is accepted as the only alternative that offers redemption to world predicaments. Of the numerous alternatives that are as numerous as the various religions and philosophies of the world, Christianity is accepted as the only alternative that can participate in restorative justice programmes, implement redemptive policies, or be rebuilders of broken communities and broken lives.
Unless we are utopians, we have to accept the fact that we can never have an ideal type of just society. But when bad things happen to societies and individuals, Christianity is said to have been the only alternative that provides hope of redemption. The truth is that, Christian people doing a Christian thing in a Christian way take the lead not only in producing individual transformation, but in reanimating culture, bringing Christian truth to bear in all aspects of our common lives together.
True justice, according to Burnside, involves an ongoing dialectic between the antiseptic and compassionate views, aiming higher to achieve the goal of right relationship. But this dialectic can take place only within the context of what moral philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre calls a ‘tradition of enquiry’. And in Burnside’s view, that tradition is Christianity which sees humanity in relational term – in relationship between God and humans and among humans.
Historically, secular naturalism and biblical theism have been utterly antithetical in viewpoints over different understandings of how government should function to preserve order and promote justice. Philosophers like Rousseau and Voltaire have made a scathing attack on Christianity and its institutions challenging the historic Christian view of original sin and blaming Christian institutions as an oppression that chained men.
The Enlightenment of the eighteenth century that propagates State as the ultimate liberator saw its disastrous implications in world history as such paradoxes as the Reign of Terror in French Revolution’s pursuit of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. We also saw Marx’s influence of economic solution to social ills that led to the gulags and the killing fields in Cambodia under the totalitarian regime of Pol Pot in the twentieth century. The Naga history too is stained with tyranny and blood as witnessed in fratricidal killings and having seen many public leaders got killed. History proves that all revolutionary leaders in one way or other are under the influence of the writings of Rousseau, Voltaire, and Marx and so on.
Utopianism declared God irrelevant to politics and men can achieve a this-worldly redemption through political action, that is, through the seizure and use of power by an enlightened vanguard. This is seen in the political actions of Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and so on.
Now coming back to my main point in discourse, today the Naga society lives with unhealed wound of many wrongs committed in the past by the Naga political groups. These wrongs were committed in the trunk line of Machiavelli and Hobbes theories that declared the state is paramount to citizen’s life, justifying that any act, even killing if necessary for the cause of the state, is legitimate. Here, I think, is a syndrome of moral ambivalence where Naga nationalist leaders are caught between two moral responsibilities of as the state heads and as Christians. Paradoxically, the Utopian authority of justifying the act of even the worst kind for Naga nation is against the moral restraint of conscience to do no wrong by the fact of being Christian and believing in biblical teaching of sin. Taking one’s life cannot be justified with convenience like ‘God will understand it’. Naga society is suffering today with wounds of hurts and unforgiving attitude for crimes brought about by political action of those in power. Fairly exercise of restraint of moral conscience to do no more wrong by the Naga nationalist leaders to rebuild and restore a rational and just society is obviously absent.
In a predicament like this in Naga context, I believe, our leaders need to embrace Christian restorative justice that is base on restitution or making rights to the extent possible the wrongs done. The reason is that in the context of Naga national movement, God relevance to Naga politics is paramount right from the beginning in against to utopianism that declared God irrelevant to politics. I feel it necessary to quote here some of what our collective leaders’ echoes in their Republic Day speeches this year: “Fifty eight years ago on this Day of the Lord as National Government with a framed Constitution in the name of God Almighty that we were and we are a nation” (NNC), “Nagaland for Christ is a covenant of God with the Nagas”, “When God is happy with NSCN, than there will be an honourable solution. If God be on our side who can be against us” (NSCN/GPRN). These have bearing on how Naga nationalism is founded upon God in centre and a total repose of faith in God for deliverance from political bondage. In the light of the above, the Christian worldview must become the guiding belief to engage in reconciliation.
Historically, Christianity has brought transformation to the Naga societies to give up headhunting – a culture that legitimizes violence involved in head taking. Today’s fratricidal killing among Naga political factions and systematic targeting of public leaders is a sublimated form of Naga primitive headhunting culture. Retributive justice to ‘even the score’ in killing was the legitimate act of headhunting. There is no difference between fratricidal killing and primitive headhunting in the context of expression of human aggression. Initially Naga primitive headhunting was sublimated through restriction imposed by external agent, Christianity.
Nevertheless, that sublimation would not have come to a savage Naga had there not been development of individual transformation from self within. It was Christianity that helped a Naga to transform individually and finally decide that it was morally wrong to kill another for head trophy – the result of the influence of Christian historic teaching of sin. The basic instinct of human aggression and for a Naga too, can never be sublimed totally but the moral restraint of that instinct comes from the teaching of Christianity.
A society that enjoys near ideal type of peaceful and harmonious lives is the one that respect the rule of law and order by the citizens. That natural rule of law and order is dead in Naga societies; it has been reduced to the rule of men, the will of those who holds power which has only compounded evil in Naga society. Restoring that rule of law based on truth is the redemption the Naga societies need today. If there is no truth there is no rule of law. To achieve this objective in the context of the Naga society, no secular views or the applied legal means of reconciliation like in Rwanda would really help the Naga faction groups to reconcile or forgive the wrongs carried out in totalitarian authority by the leaders of all faction groups. It is the biblical view that should really become the means of reconciliation to Naga society because through this means must establish a transcendent authority for the law that would enables the Naga commoners to live in security under the rule of law, which is objectively true. Also, the biblical view must help the Naga Christians to recognise the reality of sin and thus provides a mechanism to restrain it. And it is only the biblical worldview that provides us to account for the wrongs we do, deal with our guilt and provides a way for the human heart to be transformed.
The cries of Naga peoples for reconciliation are loud, and the latest Lenten Agreement is welcome by all civil organisations and individuals alike. Therefore, now our leaders need to listen to the voice of the peoples in general and take it forward to reality, beyond mere agreement in papers.