Hornbill Festival 2017 is over. After ten days of song, dance, music and food, it is time to get back to reality.
The roads are barely there. Bridges are falling all over the place. Now even the lights have gone out from our homes. This is our Nagaland, hopeless and in utter despair. Where did we go wrong? A lot of questions before us but no easy answers that we can find, which makes it even more difficult for us to see the way forward.
So many things can be said or written, even agreements can be framed or Memorandums signed, that is the easy part to do. But perhaps a time has come when even that is not going to be enough.
Then we have the problem of failing institutions. There is no one whom we can rely upon to rebuild our state and society. Whatever little we achieved as a democracy, even that is in disarray.
And so really, if we are to honestly self reflect, the only thing left to do is to fall down on our knees and seek God’s mercy and divine intervention. But even that we need to do so with genuine repentance and not as a way to seek sympathy or as a face saving public exercise.
Recently it was reported in the media that Legislators and Churches in Nagaland had ‘pledged’ to commit to fair and clean elections in the state. The pledge was jointly signed by the Nagaland Chief Minister on behalf of the legislators and the General Secretary, Nagaland Baptist Church Council and Vice-President, Nagaland Joint Christian Forum, on behalf of the churches.
The good intention of the Church is not in question here. But is it really helpful to sign such pledges over and over again. Only a few months earlier the NBCC had brokered an elaborate 18-point agreement on clean elections with seven political parties in Nagaland including those in power, “with God as a witness”, as reported in the media.
Why do we need so many agreements? Without a change in heart and genuine repentance, such undertakings will not work. It was probably the Church which persuaded the Legislators to sign the pledge. The Church was carrying out its duties while our politicians were acting out of compulsion and some would say image building!
Without realizing, the Church has lost even more credibility while the Legislators used this as an opportunity (by having the Church as witness), to gain some lost ground! With their popularity at an all time low, our Legislators would have welcomed such a boost to their public image, courtesy the Church.
Interestingly the most recent pledge among the Legislators and Church took place in the ‘spirit of true Christian repentance’. In the context in which this pledge was signed, most notably the anger and protest over corruption in Nagaland, is it okay to simply cover-up such blatant acts of corruption through enforced repentance? What about the question of justice, some may ask.
A number of years ago, in a Wall Street Journal article, Dennis Prager, well known American conservative and talk show host, expressed his frustration over the cheap forgiveness, also termed as a ‘feel-good doctrine’, espoused by many Christians. The question is whether the Church should encourage such blanket statements of repentance without condition.
Simply saying ‘I am sorry’ is just another way of avoiding the issue. Why can’t our politicians, and for that matter anyone of us, be held accountable?
Now shouldn’t we ask this question that if our politicians have pledged to uphold clean elections, what then happens to the public funds they may have diverted and hoarded for their election campaigning. If at all they are not going to spend this money, shouldn’t the Church demand that this be returned for undertaking development works?
Interestingly in the year 1997, during the 125 years celebration of Christianity held at Kohima, the Rev. Benjamin Chan spoke against corruption in Nagaland and boldly appealed to the government officers to “return the money which you have hoarded for Nagaland” and arguing that “we need all the resources in your hands to uplift the land”. Should the NBCC also take a similar stand and demand that resources be returned?
Perhaps not but Nagaland can take a cue from Zimbabwe. After the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule there, its new leader offered an unusual and limited pardon on November 28, 2017: Those who stole public money and stashed it abroad will be granted amnesty if they return the cash within three months. After that period, said President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the long arm of the law will be visited upon them.
According to media reports, the new President’s amnesty move has a very practical purpose. The estimated $2 billion sent abroad by corrupt Zimbabweans might come back and give a needed boost to the economy. The country needs cash to build infrastructure for agriculture and mining.
Many countries reportedly use amnesties granted in exchange for ill-gotten gains in order to collect revenue. A recent amnesty in Indonesia netted $367.5 billion that was hidden in offshore accounts. That is equal to about 40 percent of the Indonesian economy.
Forgiveness, like that offered to those who have stolen public funds, is a good start in healing Zimbabwe. A food for thought for Nagaland!
Undertaking pledges ‘in the spirit of Christian repentance’, as is often done in Nagaland, is not going to be enough. We need to start demanding accountability. Corruption cannot be simply covered up by public display of repentance. True repentance has to be proven and demonstrated. Let us hope that our politicians will not take the name of the Lord in vain!
Naga Republic View