Naga Identity in Christ

In one of the Sunday service in the first week of September, a senior Pastor of a prominent Church in Dimapur delivered an important sermon touching on the relevant issue of a people’s identity and how Nagas are at an important crossroad of determining the kind of identity they want to nurture and build. The Pastor gave an interesting insight about our tradition and culture and how many of us continue to build our identity on the basis of our tribe and village. While the comparative advantage of the Naga people is our vibrant tradition and culture, yet the strong affiliations to ‘my tribe, my village or my clan’ has not worked favorably towards our need for a common identity and yes, a shared future as one people. While no one is suggesting that we let go of our tribal affiliation and identity, yet it would seem that for us to live together as one people, we need a unity of purpose, which is clearly lacking. And this can come about only if we are to evolve, build and strengthen our commonalities.
Recently land rights and identity politics has brought to the fore all that is wrong within the Naga family. Whether it is the status of Intangki National Park or renaming of Dimapur, issues related to land has become highly contentious and there is every danger that such emotive issues can derail not only the hard earned peace processes but also the unity of the Naga tribes. Let us admit that today there is growing distrust between certain tribes. Some are not even on talking terms. We also have the growth of new tribal identities based on some mutual affiliation. Then there is the perennial problem of the Eastern Nagas who have their own separate conglomeration. As such separation within the Naga family is therefore a reality.
A few years ago a prominent reverend and educationist pointed out that ‘only God and education can save the Nagas’. It’s obvious that Nagas must return to the roots of our fellowship with Christ if we are to live in peace and unity. And doesn’t this make sense because before the advent of Christianity into our land, there was no common bond among the hitherto unknown tribes. And all of us are aware about the headhunting days too. The coming of the American and other missionaries into our land was the harbinger of change. They brought with them the teaching of Christ, the ideals of peace, reason and humanity. And along with this came education. And it was this new awakening that led to the development of the Naga identity and political consciousness among our people. And also despite our separate tribal identities we have started to reason together in the grace and love of a greater being.
As mentioned in these columns, while identity as a tribe and larger grouping is acceptable within a reasonable limit, the point is what will happen to the common identity of the Naga nation. It is time to seriously ponder over this all important question and whether we want to live together as one people. Here we need to also think and act as a cohesive entity—shedding our different identities and interests to be united on common goals and a shared future. As believers in the word of God, Naga people must become united in Christ. If this is our identity then there is hope otherwise we may go back to the hostile past—from light back to darkness.