FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) – Five Baptist leaders have signed letters to officials of various political factions urging renewed commitment to reconciliation in the northeast Indian state of Nagaland.
Letters dated Aug. 4 cited a July BWA resolution BWA endorsing a peace agreement signed by three Naga factions in 2009. In separate letters with identical wording, they applauded party leaders for their commitment to the Covenant of Reconciliation and challenged them to redouble efforts to make it a reality.
Signers included Baptist World Alliance officials Neville Callam, general secretary, and Raimundu Barreto, director of freedom and justice. Others included Ken Sehested, formerly of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Dan Buttry, an American Baptist missionary, and John Sundquist, former executive director of American Baptist International Ministries, all with long histories of advocating for Naga peace.
“As individuals who have followed your story, the history and aspirations of the Naga is very dear to us,” the Baptist leaders wrote. “The long years of political strife and the internal violence among Nagas have caused much suffering.”
Group members said they now sense “growing opportunities made possible” by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, formed through efforts of Wati Aier, principal of the Oriental Theological Seminary in Dimapur, Nagaland, in 2008.
Aier, who worked nearly two decades to bring about the signing of the Covenant of Reconciliation in June 2009 and a high level meeting of the leaders of the Naga factions in September 2010, was this year’s recipient of the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award at the recent BWA annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The letters urged Naga leaders to participate in meetings facilitated by the forum as soon as possible “We believe your participation in the meeting is central in reaching a sustainable reconciliation agreement among the Naga groups,” they said.
For decades, several Naga groups have been in conflict with each other and with the Indian government over issues of autonomy and sovereignty for Nagaland state and the Naga people. Between 1992 and 2009, more than 2,330 insurgency related fatalities have been recorded in Nagaland.
For Naga reconciliation to materialize, the Baptist leaders said, “Naga political leaders must sit down together and agree to forge a new understanding and chart a new destiny of respect and freedom.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press. .