On Sunday, at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, the Pope held a service to mark the ‘World Day of Migrants and Refugees.’
Now, considering the unsavoury positions that institutionalized religious structures have taken and influenced over the course of history, it is perfectly understandable for one to perceive statements from such set ups with cynicism.
However, the present Pope, true to the garb of modernity that he has worn, delivered a sermon laced with pertinent messages on how to engage with the issue of immigration –an issue that has polarized societies the world over.
“Having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” the Pope said.
Immigration has always been a topic that has inflamed passions. In recent years, the world over, the global refugee crisis has dominated a large chunk of international discourse.
In Nagaland, a place faced with several maladies, immigration has only recently begun to rouse vociferous voices in the public domain.
The geopolitical status that Nagaland occupies, along with the lack of any competent immigration policy on the part of the state, are major factors which have resulted in illegal immigration becoming an issue of major concern.
It is important to discuss and address immigration, and the problems that have affected our state due to mass inflow of illegal immigrants over the decades require urgent attention.
Late as it is, the current debate on Nagaland’s immigration conundrum is welcome. Voices that have expressed concern on this very real problem have admittedly touched on pertinent issues—be it employment, the economy or demography.
However, it is also important to do so in a manner that is principled, righteous and that is steered through the prism of conscience.
The calls to action to address this issue from several quarters of Naga society have been conscientious and logical. However, in an age where the internet as an unfiltered platform, has brought out the best and worst of humanity; there have also been disturbing prejudiced and xenophobic voices in this debate.
History has taught us to be wary of the same language and arguments which we see in some corners of Nagaland’s immigration debate. History further tells us that such prejudiced sentiments are always exploited by demagogues.
Civilization has all too often forgotten these lessons, resulting in tragic consequences.
Perhaps we as Nagas can take a different route, as a people that take pride in our independent and defiant spirit, but also in our generosity and tolerance.
The way Nagaland chooses to deal with this issue will be a crucible to test the competence of the state structure, but most importantly to also test the humanity of the Naga people.
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