With polling hardly 18 days away, the influential Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) has sounded the bugle call on believers to choose between the ‘trishul’ and the ‘cross’ amid growing concerns of voters getting seduced by money and development offered by those whose hands seek to “pierce the heart of Jesus Christ”.
This was contained in an open letter addressed to all political party presidents in Nagaland by NBCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Zelhou Keyho who urged them not to surrender Christian principles and faith.
Rev. Keyho reminded all political party presidents that Nagaland was a Christian majority State and that, although Nagas had failed in their testimony time and again, they had the opportunity as leaders to show distinction. Rev. Keyho reminded leaders that running for political offices for development was only half their task as their other duty was to protect and safeguard their Christian faith and principles which the people hold dear. Reminding them that development was not everything, he said when a house was put in order, development and others followed.
Alleging rise of Hindutva forces in the country, Rev. Keyho said none could deny that these forces had become emboldened in the last few years with BJP, the political wing of RSS, in power. He further alleged that the party in power at the Centre was working hard to make its presence known and seen in Nagaland, the frontline Christian majority State in the country. “Have you ever seriously questioned their intention? If you have not, do not be fooled,” he remarked.
According to Rev. Keyho, India had experienced the worst persecution of minority communities in 2015-2017 and that persecutions had tripled in recent years. He alleged that pastors, evangelists and missionaries were dragged openly in the streets, harassed, insulted and many made to suffer. He added that places of worship of minorities were destroyed and that Bible was openly burnt. The reverend further remarked that in the past three years many NBCC partner leaders from abroad were denied visas and barred from entering India. He pointed out that Baptist World Alliance president Rev. Dr Paul Msiza was barred from visiting the Northeast on Thursday.
Expressing his pain that Christians were being closely watched and followed, Keyho asked the political party leaders whether they knew that missionaries could not preach or visit homes openly like the way they used to before BJP came to power. He said God must be weeping to see Naga politicians running after those seeking to destroy Christianity in India.
Recalling the gruesome burning alive of Australian missionary Graham Staines, along with his two sons Philip (10) and Timothy (6), at Manoharpur village in Odisha on January 23, 1999 by a Bajrang Dal gang, the NBCC general secretary said, “Now with such a group in power today, I am sure you are well aware what will become of us and Christians in India should Christian politicians easily embrace the political ideologies of those who seek to destroy the Christian faith in India.”
“What justification will your party give? Cannot we say, take everything from us but leave Jesus in Nagaland? Is your political party willing to sell Jesus for the sake of development? Do you remember what they tried to do with our Christmas and Good Friday?” he wrote.
Rev. Keyho said he was writing the letter on behalf of NBCC, the apex body of the Baptists, and on behalf of many believers who were praying for them but yet were unable to convey their heartfelt feelings and burden.
Urging the political leaders not to blame each other or make false promises, Rev. Keyho said it was not the Central government’s fault for the situation the Nagas find themselves in today for the fact that New Delhi was never interested in them “no matter how hard they try to convince you”. He said the Centre would only be happy if it could insult Nagas over and over again.
Appealing to them not to use the Central government’s show of interest to develop Nagas as party manifesto, the church leader said the community would develop if only the leaders could say enough was enough. Referring to the Naga political solution, he said, if it was possible, the matter would have been resolved long time ago. “Let us not blame the Congress or anyone in Delhi. The issue is down here in Nagaland. But I believe God is not done yet with the Nagas and when the time comes, India will not be able to do anything,” he underlined. Questioning why political affiliations had become a priority for them, he wondered whether it was because they could not become politicians without interference from outside.
Rev. Keyho said this aspect had confused the people as they were made to fight without knowing anything about what was happening. He urged them as responsible leaders of parties to control their respective parties from confusing the public. “If you fail in this, you will be failing not only yourself as a leader but the whole Nagas,” he pointed out.
Stating that NBCC’s 21st triennial convention at Impur, Mokokchung from February 2 to 4 had prayed for the Naga leaders in tears, the letter concluded by saying that the council could only pronounce God’s blessings and leave them in His hand so that His wisdom prevailed on their leadership.