The Biggest Impact of Christian Mission on Education: Dr. Kanato | MorungExpress


News Morung Express
Dimapur | October 23

The greatest impact of Christian missionary intervention has been the education the Nagas have received, Dr. G Kanato Chophy said during the 17th Morung Lecture on October 22 at Lighthouse Church, Dimapur.

In retrospect, education transformed Naga society amid various debates about the impact of Christian missionary works and Christianity, he said in the lecture, “Impact of Christianity on the Naga – A Historical Perspective”.

However, the social anthropologist from Dibrugarh University of Assam pointed out that the study and assessment of the impact of Christianity among the Nagas is not monolithic, but dynamic and evolving, with various regional dimensions.

In the meantime, there have been significant cultural interactions and debates, including even friction between Christianity and traditional culture, he noted.

Accordingly, a holistic understanding of the dynamic impact involves going beyond 1872 and tracing Christian history in the Naga regions back to the first instance of interaction dating back to 1839, he suggested. .

It is pertinent to talk about the path we have traveled and should travel as we look forward to celebrating 150 years of Christianity in Nagaland, he underlined.

Tracing the trajectory, Dr Kanato highlighted the significance of a Namsangia Naga chief inviting Miles Bronson to Namsang village, under Tirap district in present-day Arunachal Pradesh in 1839, from a historical and anthropological perspective.

In 1839 there was a flourishing neo-Vaishnavism, after a powerful Nocte chieftain embraced Hinduism in the 17th century, but it “suffered a setback” as learning was restricted to a certain section of the social hierarchy , according to its arrangement.

Bronson was therefore asked to open a school for the chief’s sons, he said, believing that Christian missions had a clear advantage because they were willing to translate the Bible into “any unknown language”. .

As a result, Bronson prepared the first Naga primer in the “Namsangia Naga” language, but had to abandon the mission due to personal circumstances, including poor health.

In retrospect, it takes a lot to know how the mission’s intervention played a very important role in the lives of the Naga, he said, postulating that if the mission had continued, the Noctes would have been “the Naga tribe the most advanced and possibly eventually telling the narrative who the Nagas are, instead of the others.

“The chosen one” is education
Dr. Kanato also attributed the emergence of the concept of “advanced” and “backward” tribes to such encounters, and called for taking these historical factors into account when analyzing the current context.

Thus, the offshoot of the mission ending at Namsang was great, he said, reiterating his argument that education was the greatest impact of the Naga missionary encounter.

It was in this context that Dr. Kanato called the notion of an “interesting misconception” among many Nagas “ridiculous”.

“What made us choose or who made anyone choose was education,” he said.

While there are many issues to discuss regarding missionary intervention or the whole Naga mission interaction, such as culture wars or loss of cultures, education is not, a he hinted.

“I think one thing that, in retrospect, Naga people should be very grateful for is this education,” he said, adding that missionary education enabled and transformed Naga society,

Maybe that should be one of the biggest impacts for me – the education and empowerment it brings, he added.

Understanding the phases of “culture wars”
Meanwhile, when the Naga mission was “reset” in the 1870s, there were notable “culture wars” – a clash between traditional culture and Christianity, absent in Bronson’s day, argued the Dr Kanato.

One reason was the British rule already in place in some naga areas when Mission arrived, he explained.

The missionaries would sometimes conflict with each other, he said, and the Nagas were drawn into the culture wars and this continues to this day.

As a result, he further brought the gathering into three significant phases of cultural conflict within the context of Naga Christianity.

The first phase was how even the missionaries were in conflict over how the mission should be carried out.

There was a lot of friction or conflict when negotiating the Naga culture, including disagreements over eating habits, clothing, drinking, etc. or the question of egalitarianism in the church.

For example, a missionary photograph from 1898 shows Ao Naga children dressed in Assamese clothing and Naga converts dressed in dhotis and saris, he noted. Again, while Dr. EW Clark was a strong supporter of the temperance movement in the United States, he wanted to accommodate certain cultural practices of the Nagas, which were criticized by other missionaries, he said. underlined, locating the same current prohibition debate in Nagaland.

As a result, Dr. Kanato noted that most Naga studies of missionaries suffer from some form of hagiographical narrative – only emphasizing the positive aspects.

The second aspect was what he called an uncritical look at the interaction between the mission and the British administration by many scholars. One such aspect was the argument that the Baptist Christian mission among the Nagas was nothing but the “handmaiden of Western imperialism”, he claimed.

However, Dr. Kanato disagreed and pointed out that there were many conflicts between the missionaries and the British administrators regarding how the Nagas should be governed or treated.

If you see the writings of people like JP Mills, JH Hutton, or Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, they felt that Christian mission was one of the greatest threats, if not the greatest, to traditional Naga culture, did you -he declares.

In the second decade of the 20th century, meanwhile, there was a resurgence of religious revival in the form of Gaidinliu and Jadonang. A similar movement was also happening in the Chin Hills Baptist stronghold in Burma.
The cultural war between Christianity and traditional Naga culture escalated especially in the post-independence period when Naga missionaries took over, he added, especially when new missionary activities took place among the Eastern Naga in Tuensang District.

American missionaries converting Nagas were negligible compared to the work done by native missionaries from the Ao, Angami and Sumi tribes, he noted, sometimes with hundreds and thousands of baptisms in a single day. However, it was followed by the burning of wooden drums and the mass elimination of ornaments and traditional attire considered “paganistic”.

This phase was marked by a pietistic form of Christianity that social scientists call the charismatic movement or 20th-century Pentecostalism, Dr. Kanato shared.

Christian missions were not perfect. We can talk about the downsides and what went wrong, but where Mission went, I think education followed, he added.

Burma (Myanmar) is another interesting case where the earliest example of Naga Christian interaction in ancient “Burma Naga Hills” comes from the Baptist Kachin Mission, Dr. Kanato said.

With the political conflict in context, Dr Kanato also noted that Christian mission in Burma appears to be “very contentious” as there was fusion of ethnic nationalism and religiosity by Naga nationalists. It is controversial because academics or even people themselves would say that some conversions have been questionable, even dubious and open to discussion, he added.

“Most Baptist State” in the world
Meanwhile, retracing its rapid rise, Dr. Kanato informed that in the last quarter of the 20th century, the state of Nagaland had become the most Baptist state in the world, even beating Mississippi and Texas to the states -United.

Nagaland also started an “Active Mission” especially in the 1970s and 1980s by sending missionaries abroad.

So I think this Nagaland has become a central Baptist culture, he added, calling the development “remarkable”.

To this end, he concluded that although there are many problems, Christianity has become very intrinsic to the whole naga identity, like it or not, and is “here to stay” for another hundred years. years or maybe even more.

He also noted that it will certainly decline in the future, like in the West, but is “very safe” at the moment and will continue to impact the Nagas worldview.


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