By Yanglu Pongen

‘When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity’ -John F. Kennedy. When we ponder upon the building and development of a nation-state, crisis is an inevitable part of it. Only through certain crisis, nation-states have been built, as we see it in world’s history. Crisis here can be understood in a ‘relative term”. Through crisis, both positive as well as negative results are achieved. For instance, fire on one hand has the ability to mould and refine, and, on the other hand has the ability to melt and destroy. Therefore, as we (Nagas in particular) go through this time of crisis in the form of COVID-19 pandemic, we ought to ask whether it is a time of moulding or a time of melting (wasting) Socio-Politico-Economically. What lesson can we all learn during this time, as individuals, family, institution, church, bureaucrat, politician and a leader?  It is perhaps a trying time that we ought to give heed and be sensible to the definitive and transformative impact, COVID-19 will cause in the coming years.

  1. Manna Mentality

When we look at the book of Joshua, it was a time of transition of the Israelites. Venturing in the wilderness for 40 years, Israelites were fed and taken care by food which God provided – Manna. After the completion of 40 years in the wilderness, Joshua was given the responsibility to lead. It was almost at the border of entering the Promised Land – land flowing with milk and honey that a story is recorded. The only boundary that was keeping them from entering the Promised Land was the Jordan river. After crossing Jordan river they settled in Gilgal and while they were here that they faced a crisis. It was a crisis forfood. For 40 years, every single day God fed the Israelites with manna. However, on entering Cannan, the following day, when they went out to collect manna, it was not to be found! They found themselves in a crisis. They murmured;“what should we do! Our manna has stopped!” Our daily food isn’t available. What shall we eat and drink? For 40 years they relied on manna alone. Their dependency was ‘manna’ which God Himself supplied them. However, the day they crossed over to the Promised Land after crossing river Jordan, their manna ceased to be found.  They were in chaos, stress and fear. For the people of Israel, heaven was lockdown. They panicked, worried and feared for food.

However, what appeared to be crisis in the eyes of Israelites was a beginning of a process of building and nurturing the people of Israel into a nation. It was indeed the origin and the beginning of God’s leading Israelites to the Promised Land. What appeared to be a crisis in the eyes of the Israelites was the beginning of unfolding God’s plan. When we examine the scripture, the word of God says “Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel on longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.” Joshua 5:12.I believe this is a God-given scripture for the present generation of Nagas. If we are to examine this verse with the present scenario and state of affairs, I wonder how would it be, if we rephrase it this way? “Then the manna ceased on the day after they(Nagas) had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel (Nagaland) on longer had manna, but they (Nagas) ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.”Now that the supposed ‘manna’ we the Nagas has been receiving (both from dependency on government and the plains for all food supplies), can we think of working and harvesting from the produce of our own land?

  • New Crisis, Rare Opportunities

The moment manna stopped, crisis began to arise. But when crisis started, a rare opportunity loomed over Israelites. They began to focus on the land produces. From that year on, they cultivated crops to sustain themselves. For us, this is indeed a great lesson. A lesson not to be reliant but self-reliant, moving from survival to sustainable mentality. Israelites relied temporarily on manna (readymade food provided by God), but then later,God gave them an opportunity to turn to the land by working on their lands for food.

So then,what is this manna for a Naga? Manna is the plains for us and even government’s salary. That’s where we majorly rely upon. But then, God has brought us an opportunity through this crisis – COVID-19 pandemic to the people of Nagaland. It’s a clarion call, an eye-opener for us not to depend on others but to work with our hands and on our lands. Through this pandemic crisis will something get moulded or melted? Let’s ponder on this question deeply. God implied Israelite to return to the land. Time to rely on manna with folded hands are gone but to unfold your hands and stand independently. It is indeed a great opportunity for the Nagas to retrospect.

  • Crisis Bigger than COVID-19

I believe this pandemic crisis is an eye opener for us to introspect and examine our Nagas conditions well. Our bigger crisis is not corona virus but rather it is our socio-politico and economic crisis that is existing and unfolding. Should we be complacent about mending our ways and build a sustainable society, a bigger crisis is impending. It is indispensable and crucial time to examine deeper realities of our current society. For Nagas, it is not a time to solely depend on the ‘manna’ but to focus on the land of Canaan and the harvest it can produce. It is time for reality-check for the Nagas. When lockdown started, our crisis emerged as to what to eat? What if supply doesn’t come from the plains? Panic buying was the consequence to stock up for the household. But then, is this the way, Nagas should go into the future?

One thing that broke my heart was two weeks into lockdown, I was compelled to visit a shop. In front of me were few persons who were picking on potatoes and tomatoes which were stale and many rotten. I too had no choice but to buy the same vegetables. With a heavy heart I wondered whether this was God’s plan (or our own making) that we have to live this way? Why we do not have anything we have harvested from our land and something we have achieved ourselves?  I’m sure people owning big cars and luxurious homes were also compelled to survive on the same kind of stale vegetables.It is indeed; sorely needed time to stop depending on the manna but focus on the land likened to the fertile garden of Canaan and the harvest it produces. So now, what will define the identity of a Naga? What we produce can define and identify who we are. I want to urge that it’s time for us to walk the talk.

  • Socio-politico Economic Reality Check

In this time of pandemic crisis, it should have been a time for us not to worry butrather be confident about resources we have to sustain ourselves but alas it is not so! We ought to have been confident that we have food grains produced from our land and livestock available in stock for 6-7 months on the trot! But alas! We don’t! What condition are we living? Today, we even fight over stale fish coming from the plains! What do Nagas produce from their land?

Nagas are 56 years old since we attended statehood (1963). But then, if we introspect, where are we today? Our neighbouring states like Manipur (1972), just 48 years after her statehood, Nagas by no means come close to them in terms of economy. Mizoram (1987) is 33 years since her statehood; can we compare and contrast certain reality checks? Be it socially, economically or politically, to be a much more stable state even though confronted with many crisis andlandlocked with many similar challenges.  

Dear brothers and sisters, where did it all start? Where did it go wrong? If we are to track back, we have got a wrong orientation. And it is this. On the attainment of statehood, we learned to get (search) a job and did not learn how to work hard. We were shown how to get a job but we were not taught how to work hard. We didn’t learn it either. We learned how to buy from others. But we didn’t learn how to produce, sell and give to other people. Should we not mend our ways and take heed to the present implications, there is an impending lamentation looming ahead. We have a wrong orientation. Our job-orientation teaching is wrong. We failed to be work-oriented society. Nagas think that a small job is good enough for survival. It’s time to increase our horizon, relearn, unlearn and reorient ourselves.

  • Towards Canaan Mentality

There was a nation in South America, rich oil producing nation in the 1950s and 60s. The government did well with the exports of lavish available oil and imported food supplies, clothing and medicines in lieu. The nation depended exclusively on salaried job revolving around oil exports. There was no land produce and no additionally small industries. Then came the crisis in the oil exports when the prices of oil dropped globally. The government eventually failed to pay the salaries to their strong  millionsof employees. There was high inflation and low standard of living. This crisis let them to become one of the poorest countries in the world with no employment and alternate resource. This impoverished state of affairs let them to a stateless society. And this state is none other than Venezuela.

If Nagas today only depend and choose to live on the ‘manna’ that comes from ‘others’, we may face the same fate as we learn it here. It’s a clarion call to all. In case Indian government goes into a financial depression (emergency), the government would eventuallyfail to pay her employees. Just as we see reduction in the salary already. Therefore, we cannot effort to depend on the manna but be dependent on the produce of the land. A shift from ‘manna’ to ‘Canaan’ mentality is rather imperative.

Yet another small nation exists in Asia pacific, a very poor nationstricken with corruption and poverty. A nation once with countless homeless citizens and devoid of resources. This nation was neglected by the British and was bifurcated from Malaysia in the year 1955. This nation is Singapore, which rose from an impoverished state to one of the richest countries in the world. In some way, this nation is quite comparable in terms of age, to the Nagas (attainment of statehood). They are just 54 years, but then, where is Singapore today as compared to Nagaland? How did it all began? The then Prime Minister of Singapore,Lee Kuan Yew developed many strategies to uplift and better the country. Among the rest, his first agenda was to uproot the cause of corruption. Second, to lead by transparent policy making and thirdly, increase foreign trade through economic exchange of goods and services.

  • Back to the Land concept

How is Nagaland in terms of economic exchanges? Do we have any exchange? For instance, what do people trade from Mokokchung to the plains? – Scrap ! rest all truck go back to the plains empty (undoubtedly no difference with the rest of the districts). I believe, upliftment of a nation depends chiefly on its leaders. In the scriptures (2Kings 18) we find King Hezekiah elevating the kingdom of Judah. Firstly, he destroyed the idols and put to an end to untruthfulness and turned to God. Raising a nation depends largely on a leader. Do Nagas have God fearing leaders? What kind of leaders do we chose? This is indeed a God-given opportunity, under the cover of this pandemic.  If only we seek God and come to a truthful realization, we have an opportunity to be moulded. Let’s be awakened, let us not focus on manna but look at the fertile garden of Canaan given to the Nagas. From now, let us work hard. Dear brothers and sisters, let’s all make a collective decision. Henceforth, whoever reads this message;

I submit to you that it’s time for us to return to the land, to ‘go back to the soil’. It’s time for us to work with our hands, on our own land and return to the harvest, produced from our land. What can you and i do with our hands and minds. Let us try to do something in our land. Let’s return to the land, back to the soil and back to our villages. Likewise, let us encourage each other to labour on our land and work hard.The will of God for the Israelites to live in the Promised Land was for them to return to the land and its produce. For the Nagas, God is calling us to return to the land, return to the soil today. Therefore, let you encourage each other and spur each other to honest work and truth. Similar to other prospering nations, God is willing to uplift us. If only we seek God with truthful mind, Nagas will not live like this. We will live better. Therefore, whoever has heard this good news, let’s all make a conscientious decision. Let us do whatever each one of us can do to uplift our nation. Let’s work hard, lets encourage the youths to work hard. Let’s leave aside anything that wastes time and does not produce any beneficial returns. But let’s focus on hard work and return to the soil and spurs the youths. Let the word of God richly bless each one of us and let the Spirit of God continue to speak to our hearts.

Mr. Yanglo Pongen hails from Longjang Village and he currently serves as the
Associate Pastor at Mokokchung Town Baptist Arogo