KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (ABP) – A Baptist leader who helped broker peace among rival factions in the northeast Indian state of Nagaland accepted the 2011 Baptist World Alliance Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award July 9.
Wati Aier, principal of the Oriental Theological Seminary in Dimapur, convened the Forum for Naga Reconciliation in 2008. Last September the forum brought together leaders of three armed nationalist groups bringing about a historic pledge to end hostilities that have beset the region for decades.
Janice Lotz, who is married to former BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz, presented the annual award that recognizes individuals “engaged in significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights.”
Aier accepted the award, accompanied on stage by his wife, Alongla Aier, a professor at Oriental Theological Seminary and a keynote speaker at last year’s Baptist World Congress in Honolulu.
Aier, a former vice president of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation and current member of the BWA Commission on Peace, credited the Baptist World Alliance and other Baptist bodies for helping to broker peace "in one of the longest, lasting conflicts in recent history.”
More than 2,330 insurgency-related fatalities were recorded in Nagaland between 1992 and 2009. Tight security in the area has curtailed travel in an era in which Aier said the Naga people longed "to live in peace."
BWA President John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia said what Aier did, "he did for Christ and for his people."
In other business at July 4-9 leadership meetings in Malaysia, four organizations in Africa were accepted into membership of the Baptist World Alliance. Two are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Association of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Congo is an association of 3,021 members in 36 churches. It was established in 1994 with offices in the eastern city of Goma.
The Baptist Churches Union Community of Congo has been around since 1964. It comprises 46,321 members in 372 churches and has offices in Kikwit in the southwestern part of the DRC.
The two new groups bring to 10 the number of BWA member bodies in the DRC, one of the largest countries in Africa.
The Baptist Convention of Sudan started in refugee camps in Kenya in 1996. It includes 18 churches and another 32 that are in the process of being established, with a combined membership of 13,500 members. Offices are in Malakal in south Sudan. There are now two BWA member bodies in Sudan.
The fourth new body is the Free Evangelical Baptist Church of the Central African Republic. The group has 57,000 members in 250 churches and offices in Berbérati, the French-speaking nation’s third-largest city.
The BWA now has 222 member bodies in 120 countries.
The General Council also accepted the Council of Baptist Churches in Northeast India –- a grouping of church bodies in several northeast Indian states representing more than 1 million members in 6,000 churches — into associate membership. Some of the groups in the council are already full members of the BWA.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.