Rev. Dr. Ellen Konyak Jamir
One night in the month of May, 1987, my family and I were woken up from our deep sleep. I was a young school going kid then, and all of us five siblings with our parents woke up to the commotion around us. As I opened my sleepy eyes, I was shocked to see many men in uniform searching all our rooms for things unknown to us then. They ransacked our whole house and after a while, left with my father. Later on, we found out that dad had been imprisoned and they kept him away for 15 days, during which he was interrogated. Many people who knew us then and our family ourselves, we were in shock and fear.
You see, my father, Rev. Chingang Konyak, was the Konyak Bible translator at that time. He and mom committed their lives to serving God and brought us up in that way. As a minister of God, he served and continues to serve the Church and our society. He was also part of the peace talks as a mediator between the Government of India and the Naga political group, then the NSCN. I remember he would be gone for days, weeks, sometimes, months in the 80s, for such work. I also remember, he put his life at risk by doing so, and being nearly killed one time in the jungles of Myanmar during one of the mission trips. He was also misunderstood at times.
When my mom took me and my siblings to see dad in the prison, I remember going there with a heavy heart. His beard had grown and he looked different, but I vividly remember his countenance…he was the same reassuring father I know. As we spoke to him worriedly, he said to us “don’t worry, be strong. It’s all in God’s hands. Keep praying.”
I know I am not the only one with a story like this in this room. Many of us have been directly or indirectly affected by our ongoing Naga struggle as a nation.
In a troubled land like ours, it is easy to succumb to our circumstances. It is easy to lose hope and find life meaningless. It is easy to nurture apathy, distrust, fear, and misconception about ourselves, others, and our systems. It is easy to be stuck in the past and unable to pave a positive future for ourselves.
It is also easy to deny the past, erase past traumas from our consciousness- yet struggle with the consequences of doing so. When we are unable to build a verbal narrative of our painful experiences, symptoms will appear eventually.
However we have a choice not to do so – A choice to rather seek forgiveness, understanding, and goodwill.
Life opportunities to do good and to pursue goodwill exist. I found out this simple truth from my parents’ way of living as well as in places I never imagined I would be. Living and working among the Karen refugees and displaced communities in the Thai-Myanmar borders for couple of years, and also going on mission trips to the Native American folks in their reservations in South Dakota, helped me realize that even in the depth of hopelessness, people can still rise above their circumstances and find hope. Not that people were not dying in those places, where humanity is at its worst, yet the power to survive as a nation exist and enable hope to be realized.
Being on this journey with FNR has also opened my eyes and heart to our current circumstances. I know many of you present here and all around us, have made immense sacrifices and invested your lives for the common good of our Naga people. Without your commitment to the process, our Naganess and what we are would diminish. However, one thing I observe, if you will, is the way we are forging ahead. There is the need to reason together, to address the unspeakable traumas of our past, to listen, to understand, to work out our differences, to strengthen our bond, and to restore relationships individually as well as collectively.
And that is my hope!
The ‘Voice of Hope’ shared during the Worship of Celebration and Commitment held to commemorate 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 Basti, Dimapur.