“People often prefer a very limited, punishing regime-rather than face the anxiety of freedom” Jean Paul Sartre.
(Reflection from Bible-Exodus)
My interest in the Naga’s freedom movement came through reading the Bible especially the story of Exodus. It was about people who dreamed of freedom and took risk to go out from a known place (Egypt) to an unknown place (Promised Land); from bondage to freedom and from slavery to liberty. The most fascinating component of the story is about their apprehension of life in freedom as they were accustomed to the life under bondage.
Most of the time, the Ten Plagues (Exodus 7-11) that befell on Egypt was solely read and interpreted as a punishment for Pharaoh for not letting the Israelites to leave Egypt. But this event (Ten Plagues) has to be read and understood from the perspective of the Israelites who had become very stubborn and who believed in God half-heartedly.
They were born and they grew up under the bondage of Egyptians and hence accustomed to such harsh life. They also had a sense of security under the protection of mighty Egyptian Kings. Many were afraid of losing the little eases they had once they leave Egypt.
They could not fully understand what life in freedom is. They could not understand what God has in store for them in freedom.
Many of them hence preferred prison-like life in Egypt rather than taking the risk of exploring an unknown life in freedom. In this situation, they were not only at the verge of losing their freedom forever but also put their faith in God at great risk. God then sent Moses with a message of liberation – to give them liberation from Egyptian’s oppression as well as to restore their relationship with God.
Moses knew very well that it will not be an easy task to deal with the Israelites in Egypt. That forced him to question God many times before he finally accepted God’s call and went to Pharaoh’s court (Exodus 3-4). As he arrives with the message of God for liberation, many Israelites, as expected, couldn’t understand the purpose of liberation and the greatness of God. Many of them were not willing to leave Egypt.
They thought that Pharaoh was the most powerful man and there is no powerful country like Egypt in the world. They were afraid of Pharaoh rather than God. In this context, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to oppress them in order to show them that God is more powerful than Pharaoh.
The ten plagues that affected the Egyptians became a necessity to exorcise the demon of fear from the unbelieving heart of the Israelites. Hence, God’s intervention in the liberation movement was not only for physical liberation but also importantly to build up good relationship through worship (Exodus 9:1).
In this sense, liberation carries both vertical and horizontal significance. God demonstrated various wondrous deeds to transform their hardened hearts because they needed new heart and mind to live in a new land as freed people. Only when they were finally ready, God took them out from Egypt. Unfortunately, even while journeying to the Promised Land, some of them wanted to go back to Egypt.
The incident of crossing the Red Sea was another lesson for those Israelites who still envied the power of Pharaoh and Egypt. The powerless Israelites were then kept in between the mighty Rea Sea and the powerful Pharaoh’s armies. They complained to Moses and Aaron for taking them out of Egypt to die. God then opened the way for them to escape whereas their enemies perished. In the process of liberation, they got chance to learn many new things which they never forgot long after they settled down in the Promised Land.
Despite living under the oppressive regime, there was food to survive in Egypt (Exodus 16:3). Many Israelites had also accumulated wealth. They had developed close attachment with Egypt. They were apprehensive of the new place.
They were like a bird in a cage habituated to live in bondage solely depending on owner’s mercy to survive. They might be scared thinking that once they were set free from the cage, they would struggle hard to get their daily food.
The real problem with them was the lack of faith in God. They did not understand that God will provide all their needs. God then taught them a great lesson by keeping them in the wilderness for forty years. There they neither toiled nor sowed but God fed them with manna. God has enough resources to keep everyone alive. But when they tried to accumulate and hoard manna it was turned into worm the next morning/ day (Exodus 16). Greediness is against God’s will as it causes the poor and the weak to starvation and death.
God provided them meat when they were yearning for it (Exodus16:13). God also provided them water when they feel thirsty (Exodus 17). As long as they believe God, there’s no need for them to worry about food and drinks. God provides all their needs. God’s economy is economy of life that comes along with social responsibility and religious significance.
Can the Nagas reflect on the history of the Israelites to pursue and achieve their goal? Nagas have been wandering in the wilderness for too long. It’s time to go out and enjoy the freedom as envisaged by our bygone leaders.
Those who are afraid (especially the rich propertied class) thinking of losing their wealth once they get freedom are those people who are ignoring or failing to check the bountiful blessing bestowed upon the Nagas by God. Naga’s homeland is filled with rich natural resources (mineral, oil and gas, abundant water sources, fertile land, etc), and biodiversity hotspot in the world.
The sprawling mountain ranges, valleys and hills and evergreen virgin forests testify the goodness of God. It is one of the best inhabitable parts in the world with very less natural calamity. There is no reason to be afraid about economy.
The ‘dependency mentality’ of sucking milk from oppressor’s cow for whole life should be given up.
How long should we live on fallen crumbs collected from other’s table? In terms of both natural and human resources, the Nagas today are well ahead of India when she got independence in 1947.
Freedom is not determined by the size of geographical area, economic status, educational position or number of populations. It is based on rights. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Nagas have every right to be independent.” Freedom is God’s gift. However, freedom does not come cheaply to any nation.
It requires lots of physical and mental preparation because along with the joy of freedom is also a fear of the unknown. But what is life without taking risk? Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does include the freedom to make mistakes.” Freedom can be exciting with many things to explore.
What we need today is freedom- the freedom to dream freely, to decide freely and live freely. For so long we have allowed the oppressors to shape our life. For how long should we allow others to dominate and rule over us? Hadn’t the Israelites moved out from Egypt during the time of Moses, they would have been a lost nation immersed under the mighty Egyptian empire.
They won’t have history. They won’t be a people, a nation and we won’t have known them today.
Gautama Buddha said, “If you don’t fight for what you want, don’t cry for what you lost.” If we do not stand up and fight for our freedom today, tomorrow we may become a lost nation and our cry for it may be in vain. Rise up! Youth of Nagas. Gird up your loins. Fasten your belt.
Come out from defeatist mentality. Although we were born under the bondage, we should not die under it. Leave aside the fear to live in freedom as there are many exciting things welcoming us ahead.
It is God who will give us freedom, and not any national political party or leader. God’s pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites to the promised land (Exodus 13:17ff) will lead us to our destination one day. Let’s fully prepare ourselves for freedom and give God a chance to lead us on.
Z. K. Pahrü Pou
Mission Colony, Pfutsero