A Christian Perspective on Panacea to the Ills of Kukis
By T. Onkho Joel Haokip
Unity was what once characterised the Kuki society in the pre-Christian dispensation. They had not bowed down to the mighty British Empire standing shoulder to shoulder. Despite internal differences, there was unanimity in sinking their differences when external threat to their communitarian life was perceived, and in unison managed to protect their community and land from harm.
They continued to live an independent political entity unsubordinated to any external forces. Despite engulfed with the darkness of animism and spirit worship, devoid of hope for the future, what was enviable and worth appreciation was their unity and resoluteness to jealously guard their communal well being.
Christian faith arrived among the Kukis in the 1900s. Soon churches grew rapidly in the nook and corners of the Kuki inhabited areas – such as Myanmar (Burma) and Chittagong hill tracts. Apart from foreign Christian missionaries, local Kuki churches also send out missionaries to disseminate the gospel news not only to their neighbouring communities but also to far off regions such as Nepal as well, which is really a matter of great satisfaction indeed.
Embracing new faith, alien to our traditional belief systems and values, means a turnaround in our socio-cultural life. The transition from traditional faith to the new faith in Christ was more of a progressive one in terms of availing education and exposure to a much more advanced civilisation, apart from the everlasting life we have in the Lord. These new ways of life expanded our horizons, and generated a world-view no longer centred on our own-ways of life. Much of the progressive forces that sustain our society till today can be safely attributed to the arrival of the new and progressive Christian faith amongst us.
On the other hand, it would not be wrong or an exaggeration to observe that the transition to Christianity has also brought about adverse outcomes that has proven damage to certain aspects of our social lives. Kuki society began to witness marked divisions in the religious domain that also has its own spill-over effects to the social fabric, once marked by unity and oneness. Denomination concerns have taken the centre-stage and a new wave of competition for memberships has ripped the society into many fractions.
Contemporary Kuki society has unprecedented divisions in their socio-political and religious domains. Sub-divisions into Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Catholics, Judaism, etc. characterise our religious domain. Politically, the society is divided into, say, Kuki National Organisation, United Peoples’ Front, Independent groups and so forth; not a mere division but highly antagonistic to one another even to the extent of attempting to exterminate one another.
In the religious domain, it is even more dreadful if we examine the reality. Amongst many other issues, one that merits attention is the way how different Church groups attempt to outdo one another in terms of membership base. What I consider as ‘uncalled for’ is about the claims of growth in, say, Church memberships among the numerous Church denominations we have as of today.
When a Church denomination claims of registering a huge growth in its membership base, little did it realise that memberships are being poached from another (our own) denomination. The growth in that particular Church membership is largely a product of the shift in loyalty from one denomination to another, and is not a matter that ought to generate much enthusiasm and celebration.
What is worst again is that the shift in this loyalty is influenced by clans or sub-ethnic ties. This could be best described as: The growth in membership base of a particular Kuki Church means the decrease in membership of another Kuki Church. Putting differently, the reduction in membership in a particular Church is due to the increase in membership in another Church. The pertinent question here is: What is so important about poaching membership from one another when we are all one and the same people worshipping the only single, true Lord.
What is despicable is that the divisions into different denominations of Christianity centres not only around doctrines, but also on clans and sub-clans. The Kukis – what was once a highly homogenous society – has turned into numerous fractions with different socio-political formations representing each of these tiny fractions.
Churches, electoral politics, so-called revolutionary movements, etc. are formed, run, and managed based on clan, sub-clan, and sub-ethnic considerations. This menace continues unabated and many more likely to emerge based on these considerations. This is a matter that should generate shame rather than holding our heads high. It is also really dreadful to imagine where the society is headed.
These segregations into different denominations, different movement organisations and ethnic identity groups have caused immense damage to our society. The lack of harmony or unity in our religious, social and political domains means that the two aspects of our society – temporal and the Church – cannot benefit but weakens the other and vice-versa.
The observation here is that Christian values, if understood and accepted in its true sense, is excellence per se, and that the damage is induced more by the faulty acceptance or practices of the teachings of the Christian faith. In other words, it is not the faith that has produced these adverse outcomes but the way we practice and adhere to it.
I am also sure that there would be exceptions, with people directing their faith, energy and efforts to genuinely serve the Lord and also for taking the nation forward. Therefore, it should be understood that the observation made here is based largely on the symptomatic ills that presently beset our society.
What is comforting, however, is that we all recognise that the ills of our society require urgent attention. For the restitution of Kuki society, a number of approaches have been put forwarded and shared by a cross-section of our discernible leaders and nationalists. They are (in a nutshell): political approach, missiological, and theological approaches based on Christian values.
Of the above given approaches, I consider theological approach – in consonance with the Christian values – as the most relevant and vital for the restitution of Kuki society. Radically restructuring our relations with the Lord is the only panacea to the ills that beset our society. This is the only way to become a nation that is pleasing to the Lord, and once the Lord is on our side, there is nothing insurmountable though our problems may appear formidable.
The Christian missionaries or Christian values per se cannot be the culprit for present chaos and ills that beset our society. It is my strong belief that it is we as people who do not accept the gospel truth in the right way (the way it should be). The spirit of God is not the spirit of confusion. It is the spirit of God that enlightens the holy words. When preached to and accepted in its truth by the people, the end result is the changed in personal relations between the people and the Lord, and personal relationship amongst the people that is based on truth alone.
The failure to understand the Bible in its truth is the root of the problem. Ignorance about the purpose of God for men, the equality of mankind, values of life, roles and values of Church, mission, and leadership has been the primary causative factor of our ills and problems. It may also be possible that we know the truth, but refuse to transcend worldly considerations.
Such ignorance leads to misunderstandings about the true role of the Church, and ends up a domain for contestations and competitions for other ulterior motives. Indulgence in nasty contestations for positions (specifically for apex positions) within a Church, formation of a clique within a church, sectarian campaigning etc. become primary ills that befall our Churches, which further divides our society. These are highly unbiblical in nature and its practices should be avoided.
It is the word of God that will liberate the Kuki people from their present situation characterised by chaos and confusion in all areas of religious, socio-political life. God gives His word, the Bible, for His people to derive principles so that they can grow physically and spiritually (Luke 5:52). The Holy Scripture is enough to give eternal life to the Kuki people (John. 7:37).
It is the guidebook for the Kuki people for their conduct (II Tim. 3:16). It is the sole director for their mission movements (Acts 1:8; 4; Matthew. 28:19-20). It has the best guidelines, enough to guide their political movement (e.g. the lives of Moses, Joshua, David, etc). It contains ideas and knowledge sufficient enough to guide us in efforts to reform our society. The only step needed is to seek to understand rightly and adhere to the teachings of the holy book.
The worldly acquired knowledge, ideas, philosophies, and understandings may guide us rightly in a certain way, but has its own limitations. But the knowledge and understandings flowing from the Holy Scripture are the only ones that could redeem us. Holy Bible holds the key to aid us emerge from our sorry situation.
Only by learning the Bible and understanding its truth, can we hope to have leaders that manage and run the Church in tune with the Lord’s purposes; evangelists who focus on disseminating the gospel news but not on poaching members from others for his own Church; Pastors solely concern with the spiritual well-being of the Church; and community leaders filled with the love for the nation. It is only by redirecting our energy and attention to the teachings of the Bible that could rescue us from our present predicament.
The only way out for us all is to return back to the Bible. That alone holds the key to the solution of our problems.
The writer is a trained theologian currently engaging in evangelism works among the Kukis irrespective of denominations. He can be reached for comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.