Worship of Celebration and Commitment – The 9th year of signing of the ‘Covenant of Reconciliation’ on June 13, 2018 organized by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation at Dimapur Ao Baptist Church, Duncan Bosti, Dimapur
Rev. Dr. Wati Aier
Convenor, Forum for Naga Reconciliation
Fellow people of God and of common belonging; this day is significant for the Nagas and our other sisters and brothers living in all of Naga-Land. It is significant firstly, that the day marks the beginning of the tenth year of the signing of the “Covenant of Reconciliation” (CoR) and, secondly, for the abiding memory of the CoR and for its unreserved commitment by the signatories. Amidst the dark cloud of Naga “factional” violence and killings, in March 2008, FNR was named with the mandate of 37 Naga bodies from across Naga-Land and the various Church Councils. Under such a stormy condition, FNR’s first objective was to bring the then four groups –NSCN (IM), NSCN (K), NNC (Adino), and NNC (Singnya and Zhopra), by sitting across the table to cease all forms of violence. With persistence and prayers, after 21 meetings, officially authorized representatives from the NSCN (IM), NSCN (K) and FGN/NNC (SZ), the “Covenant of Reconciliation” was signed by the late Isak Chishi Swu, Late SS Khaplang, and Brig (Retd) S Singnya, on this day, nine years ago. This signing drastically reduced the level of violence and bloodshed and provided avenues for complete cessation of armed confrontation and taking of lives. The credit goes to the Naga Political groups (NPGs), the various apex Naga organizations of women and men, the Church, and Nagas and non-Naga citizens for the support in walking the CoR for these past 9 years. Above everything, we unreservedly acknowledge the work of God in Christ.
From the CoR, Naga political groups, and almost every woman and man have benefited. It opened an atmosphere of safe travels for the NPGs without the fear of becoming a victim of another group. The citizens experienced a sigh of relief in accomplishing their daily chores without fear. Above all, the haunting sense of an unknown evil fled from the psyche of most people. The impact has led to the psychological emancipation of great measure.
Side by side, business community began blossoming, shops and eateries remained open for a good part of the evening, in major towns of Nagaland, as opposed to the closures at sun down a decade ago. Structural development began unabated. School going children, boys and girls however, have not experienced what it was like more than a decade ago they are recipients of the CoR benefits. Those young men and women, who were children ten years ago, can today attest to the fact of the past without fear. Today, daily gun battles among NNGs, in villages and towns are almost a thing of the past. To this, all must remain committed.
The Home Ministry of the Government of India acknowledged the CoR and the cessation of violence among the NPGs by the then Secretary, GK Pillai in his visit to Kohima. Soon a suit was followed by lifting the Protected Area Permit (PAP), then known as the “Restricted Area Permit” (RAP), required by any foreign national visiting Nagaland. The Government of the State of Nagaland, under N Rio, the Chief Minister, welcomed the CoR and thanked the signatories and other apex organizations followed suit. Soon media journalists and reporters were writing the story of the CoR in leading media in India and in the academic institutions on Conflict Transformation lessons from the CoR are discussed as a paradigm.
FNR with the people continues to walk the “Journey of Common Hope.” Reconciliation is no one’s monopoly, FNR is not the only one that is in this mission. We acknowledge and affirm different organizations ranging from women, students, to churches, Hohos, and other bodies working for a common good. FNR calls upon all to appreciate and support one another in this great work of reconciliation. Let us give up the dividing by which we conquer ourselves.
Over the last nine years, much has changed, yet much needs to change. The challenge is to keep working on reconciliation of not only the NPGs but also the public. This is what the times require of us. We must overcome the trouble that reinforces our dismal worldview. A common will is required to lead us to the future. With this in mind, FNR has marked 2018, as the year of “Walking the Naga Day.” We believe that it begins by imagining the future today. FNR believe we have to hope, and hope in this sense is something we can learn through engaging with one another and discovering who we are as persons and at the same time as a people with a distinct identity. We believe that we must resist all ease which leads to despair. Together, we want to dig the tunnels of limited world view conditioned by our culture and the present world view. Together, we must cut the dense jungle that is suffocating our young minds. Together, we want to connect the divide and build bridges. FNR believe that we can talk about both the terrible things of the past so as to forgive one another and restore healthy living. We are Walking the Naga Day, in confidence to endeavor to keep pursuing the possibilities to be winners and achievers. We encourage all to stand up and participate, to look forward at what we can do. Today let us make the day of commitment and creation of the new.