CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

NORTHERN INDIA

  

In the earlier chapters we have concentrated mainly onto the development of Christianity in the Malabar Coast after the Mahabali Period.  This is because the Malabar coast had direct connection with the Churches in the Greco Roman world - the Roman and the Antiochian tradition.  Soon after the seperation of the Nasranis of Malankara and the two sects -Saivites and Vaishnavites - who were apostazised under the influence of the Mani of Syria and later Gnostic sages of India.  As a result the gap between the two became large enough to form distinct religions.  The latter merging with other local religons formed the Hindu religons.  They were not yet considered as a single religion until the time of British.

 

While the coming of the Syrian Christian immigrants from Syria to Kerala made the Christianity in this area as the Syrian Christians since the form of worship and traditions were all borrowed from Syrians.  

 

After another ten centuries following Islamic invasions, came the Colonial invasions.  These opened up a large influx of foreigners for trade and openned up an influx of  Christian missions - Portugese, French, Dutch and finally the English.

 

Since these people could not recognize the religion of the rest of India, they classified them under three head - Christians, Islam and all the rest as Hinduism.  Even though they were woshipping all sorts of different gods, they were all clubbed together as Hinduism as a complex religion.  This suited the Hindu people in that it gave them a new identity.  The theology of OM, the Upanishads and the Sanatana Dharma became the identity of Hinduism and no more connected to the Christianity.

   

Several Christian missionaries and other evangelists reached India along with the colonising capitalism.  The missionary methods usually followed the "Mission compound method."   In this method the missionaries remained exclusively alien and lived in their own culture within the compound and preached reaching out side.  Cultural barriers meant that those who came in faith transformed and immitated the culture of the missionaries.  In fact this is what happenned in Malankara where the living style, worship method and liturgy followed the Syrians.  When the Roman Catholics came they brought with their faith, their ways of worship and living style. When the Reformation missions came they brought with them their ways of worship and living style.  Of course eventually there would be a mixing up of cultures.   A better way of mission is the "Immersion" method where the missionary immerses himself in the culture where the message is to be delivered.  In this method the language and forms and symbols of the local culture is employed. 

 

One effective method of interaction was being actively involved in educational , health and social reformation in the country.   This method takes a long time to effectively transmit the faith.  As such we can see large number of Christian Institutions of Education and Hospitals and Clinics established by the missionaries wherever went.  Until recently almost all institutions of higher educations were run by Christian churches in India.  In fact the association is so strong that Schools are called Pallikoodam (gathering in Church) as they were originally part of the church buildings.

 

The faith is communicated to the hearers only in the language of the hearers.  This is why the missionaries had to speak the language of the country into which they enter.  This is why the Bible is translated into the language of the culture.  Apart from that communication is effected through the signs and symbols that have meaning only within the context of the culture. 

 

In this chapter we look at the effect of this type of immersion missions in the rest of India in an attempt to reclaim India for Christ.  One such involvement to communicate within the Indian culture was the many Christian Ashram Movement. 

 

 

MISSION HEAD HUNTERS

 

In the north eastern states of India a very large number of people belonging to the local tribes converted into Christianity. Majority of people in the states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram are now Christians.  At the same time they retain their tribal beliefs and customs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meghalaya

Meghalaya

 

Meghalaya or 'abode of the clouds', is a source of inspiration to any poet, a dramatic canvas for an artist's dream perched on the mountains covered with clouds, and the rainiest inhabited place on earth.

       

 

 The traditional Khasi male dress is 'Jymphong' or a longish sleeveless coat without collar, fastened by thongs in front. Now, the Khasis have adopted the western dress. On ceremonial occasions, they appear in 'Jymphong' and dhoti with an ornamental waist-band.

The Khasi traditional female dress is rather elaborate with several pieces of cloth, giving the body a cylindrical shape. On ceremonial occasions, they wear a crown of silver or gold on the head. A spike or peak is fixed to the back of the crown, corresponding to the feathers worn by the menfolk

http://www.everyculture.com/South-Asia/Khasi-Religion-and-Expressive-Culture.html

"The Khasi believe in a creator god (U Blei Nong-thaw) who is considered feminine in gender (Ka lei Synshar). She is invoked when sacrifices are offered and during times of trouble. The propitiation of good and evil spirits is also part of this system, as is the worship of ancestors. The following major spirits are worshiped: Ulei Muluk (god of the state); Ulei Umtang (god of drinking water and cooking water); Ulei Longspah (god of wealth); and O Ryngkew or U Basa Shnong (tutelary deity of the village).

The propitiation of the spirits is carried out by the lyngdoh (priest) or by old men knowledgeable in the art of necromancy. Other practitioners include the soh-blei and soh-blah (male functionaries with limited sacerdotal functions), the ka soh-blei, also called ka-soh-sla or kalyngdoh (female priests who must be present at the offering of all sacrifices), and the nongkhan (diviners). The lyngdoh—who is always appointed from a special priestly clan, who holds his office for life, and who may be one of several within a state—is the chief functionary of the communal cults. He also has certain duties in conjunction with marital laws and household exorcism. In some states, the lyngdoh subsumes the responsibilities of siem (chief) and rules with the assistance of a council of elders. The duty of performing family ceremonies is the sole responsibility of the head of the family or clan who usually fulfills them through the agency of the kni (maternal uncle). Female priests must assist at all sacrifices and, in fact, are the only functionaries in possession of full sacerdotal authority. The lyngdoh exercises his duties as appointed agent of the ka soh-blei (female priest). It is believed that this system is an archaic survival from a period in Khasi history when the female priest acted as her own agent in the offering of sacrifice. In some states (e.g., Nongkrem), there is a high priestess who functions sacerdotally and as head of state. She delegates temporal responsibilities to a son or nephew who then exercises them as a siem. The adoption of Christianity by a large segment of Khasi society has resulted in important changes. The sacerdotal function of the youngest daughter (responsible, in traditional Khasi culture, for conducting burial services on behalf of her parents and for acting as chief practitioner of the family cult) has been threatened by Christian teaching and practice (i.e., the youngest daughter, if a Christian, is less likely to fulfill her priestly responsibilities to her family).

It was these that the new missionaries were facing.  The Foreign Missions enterprise of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church (later known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales) began at Liverpool in 1840.

 

 

  

 

Thomas Jones, the son of a carpenter from Wales, was ordained a Methodist minister and left with his wife, Anne to India as a missionary.  The Jones' then climbed the hills up from present-day Bangladesh to reach Cherrapunji, where they set up their base.   He put himself to study the language of the country -Khasi - which was only an oral language without script.   By 1942, just a year after Jones had reached Sohra, he had already brought out the first ever works of modern Khasi literature - a Khasi reader and the translation of a Welsh book. Rev. Jones used the Roman script. He was aided in his work in the next few years by a other Welsh missionaries and the first two Khasi converts were baptised in March 1846. In the same year a station was opened at Jowai in the Jaintia Hills. In 1846, Jones established the first church in Meghalaya in Sohra. But soon after that, tragedy struck and his wife, Anne, died in childbirth.  He fell out with the missionary and established his own mission and church in Pomreng. He married again, but this caused him even more trouble with the mission as his new wife was only 15. He then condemned the malpractices of a local businessman who came from Europe who was powerful enough to have him barred from the area. He returned to Calcutta, where he contracted malaria and died on 16th September 1849. At the age of 39.

 

Here is his grave which says "In loving memory of Rev. Thomas Jones I, the founding father of the Khasi alphabets and literature and the pioneer of the Welsh Presbyterian Mission in Khasi Hills.  Died 16th September 1849."

The Christian Church grew slowly since Khasi converts were ostracised by their communities.  By 1866 there were 65 schools with some 2,000 pupils and ten churches with 307 members. Because of the sharp difference between the local religious practices intertwined with culture, it became necessary to insist upon higher standards for those who are converted.  In addition to renouncing heathen practices candidates had to be able to read. 1891 there were 2,147 communicants with four ordained Khasis. The New Testment was translated into Khasi by 1891 and all the Christians were literate.  In 1895 the growing Church was organised into five presbyteries. Medical work in the region commenced in 1878 with the arrival at Mawphlang of the Rev Dr Griffith Griffiths and his wife. Here a medical dispensary was set up to be followed by a hospital in 1883. Griffiths preached every Sunday in Laitlyngkot in East Khasi Hills while his wife, Annie Phillips, set up a tea stall to encourage people to give up liquor and drink tea instead. After the great earthquake of 1897 when every building in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills was destroyed and many lives lost, medical work was transferred to the neighbourhood of Shillong. Here in 1922 the “large and well-equipped Presbyterian Hospital” was opened. As a tribute to Griffiths, the villagers in Laitlyngkot and Nongshken have named portions of the hills as Lum Griffiths (Griffiths Hills).  Griffiths left Khasi Hills in 1906 and the Welsh mission to India ended in 1966.

In 1864 a General Assembly and an Executive Committee were set up to which the direction of mission affairs was transferred. The Rev John Roberts was the first Secretary of the Mission who was succeeded in 1866 by the Rev Josiah Thomas.   

The years 1905-06 saw a great revival in the Khasia Hills, when an estimated 8,000 persons were converted. The revival movement was particularly spectacular among the Mizo people of the Lushai Hills where, it is estimated that there were 27,720 Christians by 1921.  (http://themathewz.blogspot.com/2010/09/thomas-jones-of-cherrapunji-meghalayas.html)( http://www.mundus.ac.uk/cats/51/1042.htm)

 

Today over 75% of the Meghalaya are Christians.  The missions clearly distinguished between culture and religion and hence was able to sustain.  Thus the traditional matrilinear inheritance and importance of women in social life were kept in tact while dealing with magic and witchcraft.  

 

To counter the impact of Christianity under the influence of Hinduism a new organization called Seng Khasi was formed under the leadership of a non-Christian Jeebon Roy Mairom in 1899

 

 

   Presbyterian, Anglican, and  Roman Catholics form the major portions of the population with a  very few  Muslims.  The state of Meghalaya is considered a strong Christian country that the Hindus are sending their missionaris as Meghalaya Hindu Mission in Mawkhar using education and health care.

 

 

Nagaland

 

It all began when life-giving rains

Stayed away for many seasons

And the deprived land sickened and died

Even the birds and beasts fled

The barren un-yielding earth.

In desperation the elders consulted

The village arasentsur*, who

After deep reflection had proclaimed,

“Lijaba is angry, and must be appeased

With human blood, any human blood,

Do not delay, lest his anger consume all”.

 

They lived in an animistic world. They thought angry spirits caused sickness. To find healing, they sought to appease the spirits' anger. Superstition was predominant, and people relied heavily on good and bad omens in making decisions. Religious festivals and celebrations played a major role. Some of the occasions for religious festivals were; change of season, worship to Deity, secure good crops, worship and sacrifice at sowing time, demon worship to avert calamity, worship of mountains, worship the village, worship at the skull tree and others. “These worship rituals are a process of cleansing before god, making things worthy, asking god to bless them again, asking god to take away these intrusions (curses), from the community.”

File:Naga skulls.JPG 
Skulls Tree from headhunting days on display in Kohima

  Nagas, belonging to the Indo-Mongoloid stock, were primarily head hunters split into 16 major tribes, the most common ones being the Angami, Sema, Konyok, Ao and Rengma. The Nagas have had a reputation of being great warriors and were highly commended for their loyalty and bravery.

In the classless, caste-less Naga society, women have traditionally enjoyed a high social position, with a pivotal role in both family and community affairs. However, being a patriarchal society with strong warrior tradition, it is considered an honor to be born as a man. The traditional culture and customs expect a Naga woman to be obedient and humble; also expect her to perform the roles of wife, mother, child bearer, food producer and household manager.They still believe in community living and have the system of age groups taking up the social responsibilities and duties of the village. The most interesting feature is the tradition of the Morung a dormitory exclusively for the bachelors of every house having the duty to guard the village. Most villages are engaged in weaving and making handicrafts products like the Naga shawl is a very famous products.

Your head would be decorating this drawing room had you met my forefathers a hundred years ago," quips Pihoto Khala.   

 

Today, images of Jesus Christ, not desiccated human skulls, adorn Khala's small house in the hills around Kohima, the capital of India's northeast state of Nagaland.

 

The region, once notorious worldwide for its savagery, has now become India's most Christian-dominant area. It's known as "the most Baptist state in the world."  

 

 

 

 

E. W. Clark and his wife sailed from Boston (Massachusets, USA)  on October 20, 1868 under the Baptist Missionary Union as Missionaries and Printers. They arrived in Sibsagar (Assam, India) in March 1869.  The hills beyond their Sibsagar mission were the Naga Hills.

The Nagas were known for their practice of headhunting.  Headhunting is the practice of taking and preserving a person's head after killing them as a trophy showing the power and prestige of the person  symbolic of ‘masculinity’. Headhunting was practised in historic times in most countries.  Remember David carried with him the head of Goliath. "David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king’s son-in-law.” 1 Samuel 18:27 Samson had to give 2000 foresskins to buy a bride. It appears that this was the norm in ancient types.  The perculiarity of Nagas is simply that they carried it into the twentienth century until Christianity caught up with them.

During their stay at Sibsagar the Clarks had opportunity of meeting some Nagas roaming in search of food. The Clarks developed a burden for the Nagas and wrote to the Home Mission Board in 1871: “Tribe upon tribe of Nagas are accessible to the Gospel. It is certainly painful for us at Sibsagar to be unable to lift our eyes without seeing these hills and thinking of them who have no knowledge of Christ.”

Clark sent an evangelist to penetrate the Naga Hills. The evangelist came down with nine others and they were baptized by Clark on November 11, 1872. Clark was at this time not permitted to enter Nagaland by the British Government and his own mission board was hesitant to approve his plan to enter the Naga Hills. On December 23, 1872 Clark organized the First Baptist Church at Molungkimong in Nagaland.

It was an important day in Naga history when the first Baptist Church was formed. It is no wonder Clark knew his calling would henceforth be with the Nagas. “’I believe I have found my life-work,’ exclaimed Mr. Clark, as he entered the old press bungalow on his return from his twelve days’ absence in the wilds of barbarism.”

The glorious moment for Clark was not without troubles. The village became divided over the new religion. Some felt that Clark could not be trusted because he had the same white face as the British military. The Nagas opposed anything that would promote alliance with the encroaching British power. Clark was determined to dedicate himself to the people and trust the Lord alone for protection.

Clark concentrated on developing a good knowledge of the local language, their character and medicine. These skills proved helpful in soul winning and opened doors in many homes. Clark also would encourage the Nagas to pray for the sick and the recovery of a sick person would lead to a renunciation of animistic sacrifice.

In 1894 Mulong became the center of missions to further the evangelization of the Naga tribes. Mulong is the first Christian village in Nagaland. Then in a later year Clark moved his mission center to Impur which is presently known as Ao Baptist Arogo Mungdang.

In 1905 Clark saw a record one hundred and ninety baptisms. The work was truly blessed of God but Clark saw that better days were yet ahead. The Nagas were well aware that to accept Christianity would mean drastic changes in their social life. “Adherents of the old, cruel faith were quick to see that the gospel of peace and love would rapidly empty their skull houses and put to rout most of the old customs handed down from forefathers, for whom they held the greatest reverence. The missionaries presence and his teaching had spread like wildfire from mountain peak to peak and everywhere was fostered the suspicious spirit.”

Nagas, belonging to the Indo-Mongoloid stock, were primarily head hunters split into 16 major tribes, the most common ones being the Angami, Sema, Konyok, Ao and Rengma. Though they were animist by tradition, almost 98% of the population embraced Christianity under the influence of English missionaries. The Nagas were also exposed to western culture when the English recruited them as labour corps to serve in France during the Second worldwar. The Nagas have had a reputation of being great warriors and were highly commended for their loyalty and bravery. They still believe in community living and have the system of age groups taking up the social responsibilities and duties of the village. The most interesting feature is the tradition of the Morung a dormitory exclusively for the bachelors of every house having the duty to guard the village. Most villages are engaged in weaving and making handicrafts products like the Naga shawl is a very famous products.

 

Christianity brought an end to the practice of headhunting and destroyed most of the traditional culture and oral knowledge of the various Naga tribes. Clark’s vision for Nagaland came true, for the high price of destroying an indigenous culture. By 1980 the Naga population was 572,742 and the Baptist population was 185,987.  Today the Census of India, puts the numbers of Christians to more than 90% of the population of Nagaland thus making it, with Meghalaya and Mizoram, one of the three Christian-majority states in India and the only state where Christians form 90% of the population. Nagaland is known as "the only predominantly Baptist state in the world."

ABCC Logo.png

Angami Baptist Church Council

My brother Dr. M.M.Thomas was asked to become the Governor of Nagaland as he himself was a world renowed Theologian.  

 

Governor M. M. Thomas
 
(May 1990 to April 1992)
 Leading the Prayer at the Angama Church

 

 

Icon of Dr. M.M.Thomas as represented by the Presbeterian Church of San Franscisco.

 

 

 

 

 

MANIPUR

The State of Manipur in Northeast India is home to three main communities, Kukis, Nagas and Meiteis. The Meitei people belong to the valley of Manipur, and Kukis and Nagas to the surrounding hills. Manipur was formerly a princely state with a Meitei king whose influence prevailed in the plains. The Kukis are one of the earliest settlers in India. Based on   Pooyas, (the orally transmitted tradition) we know of two Kuki Chiefs named Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba, an of the first historically recorded king of the Meithis - Nongba Lairen Pakhangba

Manipur Research Forum   (http://www.manipurresearchforum.org/The%20Anal%20Naga.html)

 gives the following information.

"Before the twentieth century, the Anals worshipped gods and goddesses. They also believed in a supreme God who according to them was above gods and goddesses. They also worshiped trees and stones. They thought that every mountain, river valley, etc. has god or goddesses. They attributed all the natural phenomena like rain, thunder, wind, etc. to these gods and goddesses. They worshiped gods and goddesses for appeasement and prosperity. During this period, there were many fests. Most of them are lost, and a few of them that continue to exist are not conspicuous except Chavan Kumhrin festival.

In the past, the Anal folks brought part of their first produce of harvesting season to the village gathering where the village elders headed by Kholpu (chief) and Thimpu (priest) sacrificed part of it to their animistic gods and then ate the remaining with meat and wine. The way they celebrated their festivals including Chavan Kumhrin was that they drink home-brewed wine heavily, and they sing and dance throughout the night. Unfortunately the songs they sang are no more available to the new generations. The festival was practiced every year so that they have a good harvest for good health and prosperity. With the advent of Christianity, Chavan Kumhrin festival is celebrated in accordance to Christian beliefs and practices."

These practices are remniscent of the semitic sacrifices.  In fact there is a strong tradition which claims that these tribes in both Mizoram and Manipur are the children of  Israel of he tribe of Manasseh, one of the lost tribes of Israel geneally known as "Bene Menashe" who migated here during the Assyrian captivity around 2700 years ago.  By 2005 some 800  had returned and settled in Israel, converting to Judaism.

According to the Anal Naga Baptist Association:

Christianity came into contact with the Anal tribe when two Anal young men, namely, Bs. Thurnung and Kolchung Mono were enrolled in William Pettigrew’s school at Ukrul in 1916…. However, later in year 1919, when the Christian Mission field in Manipur was shifted from Ukhrul to Kangpokpi, some Anal families went there for medical treatment and their children to study in the mission school. Some more Anals hearing the opening of the school joined there for their education. They were all converted into Christian faith. These young people left their studies out of their enthusiasm to share the new faith among their own people and they started to spread the gospel in their area. Thus, from the year 1919 Christianity began to take root in the Anal soil.

 

Beginning of Christianity in Manipur: A Historical Approach

By George T. Haokip -  research scholar at Manipur University, India.


In the beginning of the 18th century, Manipur had a heterogeneous population – the Meeteis in the valley areas were the followers of ancient Meitei religion; the hill tribes of the surrounding hill areas were the practitioners of the primeval tribal religion and the Shan of Kabaw Valley in the eastern frontier were the followers of Buddhism.


Prior to the coming of Christianity, several mission societies, including the American and the Welsh mission had made an attempt to establish its mission centre in Manipur. But until the end of the 19th century, they were not allowed to enter the state, because of strong opposition from the Raja and the people. Moreover, the British official had to maintain status quo in religious matter and Mr. Maxwell, the then political agent of Manipur was fully conscious of the fact. Since the revolt of 1857, the British in India had a social policy in their relationship with the princely states that they should not interfere with anyone’s religion but maintain strict neutrality.


William Pettigrew was the first foreign missionary to land on the soil of Manipur on 6 February 1894. With the consent of Mr. A Portious, the acting political agent (as the political agent major Maxwell was on furlough), Pettigrew was able to establish a school at Imphal (at Moirangkhom), named after himself as Pettigrew Lower Primary School. After six months of working among the Meitei, he was not allowed to continue his work in the valley. This happened when the then political agent major Maxwell returned from furlough. As he found the Hindu Meiteis alarmed by Pettigrew’s work, he immediately ordered the missionary to stop working and leave Imphal.


From December 1894 till December 1895, Pettigrew searched for a suitable location for his new mission. First, he turned to the South and approached Kamkholun Singson, a Thadou Kuki chief of Senvon village, in December, 1895. But as Pettigrew and his teaching was not welcomed by the chief, the missionary proceeded towards the north-west to the Mao areas. Here too, he faced the same treatment he met in the South. Not only these, he was warned by the village authorities to leave the place as soon as possible. In his search for a suitable location, he came to Ukhrul and went as far as Paoyi to the North; and on his return from Paoyi, he came up to Shirui mountain and further to Khangkhui.

 

Having wandered through some of the neighbouring villages, he finally came back to Ukhrul and decided that it was most suitable place for his missionary work. In 1901, twelve students of the mission school including the Kukis and Nagas, established during the last decade of the 19th century at Ukhrul in the hills north and east of Imphal were baptised and in the following year (in 1902) a church was organised. This Phungyo Baptist Church became the first Baptist church in Manipur. In fact, as far as conversions are concerned, the two communities of the Nagas and the Kukis were the first to have received christianity.

In 1906, twenty-five new converts were added. By 1907, the Christians numbered seventy. The Ukhrul mission school was attended both by the Nagas and the Kukis as well. Among the kukis, we can mention Teba Kilong, Longkholel Kilong, Seilut Singson, Jamkithang Sitlhou, Tongngul Gangte, Helkhup Chongloi, Pakho Sitlhou, Thangneilal, Dengkho, etc. They were the first among the Kukis who got their schooling in the Ukhrul mission school, the first mission school in Manipur.


In the year 1910, Pettigrew was appointed as the superintendent of the first real census of the hill tribes of Manipur, as he had already learnt to deal with the tribes of Anals, Thadous, Tangkhuls, Mizos and others. For the second time, Pettigrew went to the south and preached the gospel for two years, i.e. from 1911 to 1912 at Senvon, Lailong, Saichang, Parbung, Songsang and at Phenjol villages. When the need for more missionaries arose, Rev. and Mrs. UM Fox came from America to Ukhrul in 1911. During the first five years of stay, Fox opened the gate for higher education.


In 1912, nine students of Ukhrul Mission School were baptized. Among them, the names of four Kukis were included viz Teba, Longkholel, Helkhup and Jamkithang. During the next few years, other Kuki students were converted. On 30 August 1913, three couples namely Lhingkhosei and his wife Chonghoi, Let’am Kipgen and his wife Chinthem, VunYaseh and his wife Phalkim were baptized by UM Fox. UM Fox also wanted to baptize the Christians of Tujangwaichong village.

Before he left for his country, as he was not able to reach the village, he asked them to meet him at Karong. The villagers, accordingly, came to the place accompanied by their chief Songjapao Kipgen. Seeing the Kuki chief, the missionary was delighted and on the 12 December 1914, UM Fox baptized 12 persons, including the chief at the Karong river. On this auspicious day, Rev. UM Fox declared the establishment of the Tujangwaichong Baptist Church and nominated T. Lhingkhosei Kipgen and Let’am Kipgen as church pastor and deacon respectively. Thus, Tujangwaichong Baptist Church became the second Baptist church in Manipur and the first among the kukis. It was established at Karong by declaration, due to time constraints faced by the great missionary.


In 1915, Rev. UM Fox baptized Maipak Kabui, Kachindai Kacha-Naga, Bhagirath Gurkha, Thanga Hmar, Jaison Kom-Kuki and Manjaching at Imphal. Longkholel Kilong was appointed the first evangelist among the Kukis. Through his endeavour, the Langkhong church was established. The Magui church, which is the oldest, came into existence through Nehseh, the first convert among the Thadou-Kukis. In June of the same year, as demanded by the villagers, Rev. Pettigrew established Lower Primary School in Tujangwaichong and deputed Ngulhao Thomsong as teacher (1915-1917) with the initial enrolment of 13 students.


Through the invitation of Longkholel and his co-workers, churches were established in Songphel Khollen in Tamenglong district, Tongkoi and Kachai village in Ukhrul district. Longkholel was appointed by Pettigrew as an evangelist for the west district of Manipur in 1914. He propagated the good news to every wild tribes he came across and converted many people. He had greatly influenced his family and relatives, so his whole family converted. His uncles Choison Kilong and Yampu Karong (Kilong) and their entire families along with his aunts and their families accepted Christianity and were baptized at the hands of Rev. UM Fox at Kaishamthong Baptist Church in 1915. With the help of these converted relatives and Semkhopao Haokip, they established the Mokokching Baptist church on 7 March 1917 – the fifth Baptist church in Manipur and second among the Kukis.


The growing increase in local churches and the widening on the frontier of missionary movement necessitated the formation of (what was known as) the Manipur Christian Association in November 1916, the first of its kind and its initial convention was held at Ukhrul in 1917. Meanwhile, a war broke out between the Kukis and the British, known as the “First Kuki War of Independence” on 19 December 1917. After the war was over, Pettigrew was convinced that the mission centre should be moved to a more convenient place in the valley as the Ukhrul centre was quite isolated from the rest of the state.


In consideration of the contribution made by the missionaries and the native Christians towards the global war and the Kuki Punitive Measure (KPM), the state government had granted a land for the new mission headquarters at Kangpokpi on the Imphal-Dimapur Road. In 1919, when the Pettigrew’s were on furlough, Crozier started the work of clearing and building at the new location in Kangpokpi under the direction of a Kuki Christian, Seilet (Seikholet) Singson. Before he started his mission works at Kangpokpi, Crozier first, went to some Kuki dominated areas and met the two Kuki chiefs of Sangnao (Sitlhou clan) and Santing. Crozier informed the two chiefs about his intention of establishing a mission centre.


He promised to connect their villages by road, provided the chiefs granted the needed land for the same. But, one after another, the two chiefs refused to accede to his request. So, in November 1919, the Croziers moved to the new centre and was joined later by the Pettigrew in 1920. Thus for the first time, Crozier started the first missionary dispensary and leper asylum at New Mission Station on 7 November 1919. A Middle English School and orphanage were also established.

 

Mizoram

(from http://www.bmsworldmission.org/about-us/our heritage/asia/mizoram)

Headhunter tribes, dense forest and evil spirits were the welcome awaiting missionaries to the Lushai Hills of India (now known as Mizoram).

However, despite the apparent challenges, this scene would host a total change in the tribal beliefs, fears and development. In the 74 years of the Western missionary era there, the ‘unreached’ tribes of the Lushai Hills became a missionary-sending people.

At the end of the 19th century, various tribes inhabited the thick tropical forest-covered Lushai Hills. One of these tribes were the Lushai (who referred to themselves as the Mizo). They were nomadic cultivators, but were also known for less pleasant practices: the Lushai would raid the tribes living on the foothills and plains, decapitating some victims and carrying their heads back to the mountains as trophies, and capturing others alive and keeping them as slaves.

Tribes: fear in the mountains

Inter-tribal fighting was commonplace and just as the people of the plains feared the Lushai headhunters, the Lushai feared raids from the Pawi tribes living in the mountains to the east.

In terms of religion, all hill people lived in fear of the evil spirits that were believed to inhabit the mountains, valleys, forests and streams. Misfortune, sickness and death were all attributed to these spirits and innumerable sacrifices of domestic animals and poultry were made to appease them.

Pioneer Missionaries among Mizos Rev. JH Lorrain and Rev. FW Savidge

In  January 11, 1894 Mizoram pioneer missionaries Rev. J.H. Lorrain (Pu Buanga) and Rev. F.W. Savidge (Sap Upa) arrived in Mizoram from England, United Kingdom bringing with them the gospel of Jesus Christ that has since changed the history of Mizo people.

Pioneer message-bearers to the unreached tribes

This was the situation awaiting two missionaries, J H Lorrain and F W Savidge, who entered the region in 1894 with the backing of the ‘Arthington Aborigines Mission’. The strategy of the Arthington mission was to send out missionaries two-by-two to unevangelised tribes. Within four years, Lorrain and Savidge learnt the Lushai language, translated Luke, John and Acts and published a Lushai grammar and dictionary.

In 1897, the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists extended their work to Lushai, so Arthington withdrew his workers to avoid the duplication of missionary resources. However, Lorrain and Savidge desired to stay in the area and so formed their own mission, the ‘Assam Frontier Province Mission’, staying in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. In 1901, the Welsh mission agreed to cede the work in the south Lushai Hills to BMS. The BMS India Secretary wrote to Lorrain and Savidge suggesting that they return to Lushai under the auspices of BMS, and they arrived at Lunglei in March 1903.

Evangelism Mizo-style

In Lunglei there was an existing Christian community of 125 who had been converted by Welsh missionaries during visits from their station further north. Lorrain and Savidge began by preaching a traditional evangelical message of salvation from sin, but found that the Mizos had ‘no sense of sin and felt no need for such a Saviour’. So they changed their approach to fit in with the Mizo worldview, proclaiming Jesus as the vanquisher of the devil and his powers – and found a radically different response.

News of the revival that had swept through Wales spread to the Welsh mission field to the north of the Lushai Hills and encouraged prayers for a similar revival in Mizoram. The pace of conversions quickened noticeably, with chiefs professing Christianity and whole villages turning to Christ.

Until 1913 there was no organised church life because believers were scattered in over 80 different villages. Lorrain’s approach was to appoint the most mature Christian in each village as a ‘Sunday school superintendent’, charged with teaching all the other believers basic doctrine, hymns and reading skills. Thus the Sunday school became a key agent of both education and evangelism.

The duty of every convert to bring others to Christ was stressed from the outset. All converts were taught to tithe their crops to the church, which supported four evangelists from 1905.

Thus an unorganised church was already self-propagating and self-supporting. In his reports to BMS, Lorrain emphasised that they were not making Mizo Christians like western Baptists, but developing a national Lushai church.

The church-planting strategy adopted in Mizoram attracted the admiration of the rest of the BMS India mission; it was imaginative and had transcended denominational boundaries. In the years following World War One, Mizoram was experiencing the most spectacular example of church growth in any BMS field in the 20th century. Between 1919 and 1924, the total Baptist community grew from 3,670 to 8,770, and church membership from 1,017 to 3,198.

With what must have felt a great weight of achievement behind them, Savidge retired in 1925 and Lorrain in 1932. These pioneers were replaced by two couples that were to serve the Mizo church continuously almost to the close of the missionary era there: Horace and Betty Carter (1930-59) and Frank and Florence Raper (1932-61).

The Baptist churches continued to grow during the 1930s and 40s. By 1949, the Christian community was over 31,079 strong and church membership stood at 12,133. In 2008, the Baptist Church in Mizoram reports a membership of 120,589 in 410 local churches.

Education, healthcare and translation

The work of communicating the gospel was not only down to the missionaries. The first Sunday school superintendents evolved into elders in charge of village congregations and the first native pastor, Chuautera, was ordained in 1914.

Meanwhile the work expanded with summer schools from 1915, training classes for pastoral and evangelistic ministry from 1918, schools both for boys and girls, medical work, and the continuation of the translating and printing of Christian literature. Girls’ education and women’s work was pioneered by two long-serving missionaries – Edith Chapman and Marjorie Clark. In a society which originally regarded girls as not worth educating, by 1953, these ladies had trained nearly 80 Christian girls as certified teachers and leaders of women’s work in the villages.

 

Taking the message to others

The north east of India was the first to see the door close on the Western missionary presence. The rebellion of the Mizo National Front against rule from Delhi beginning in 1966 made the Indian government very sensitive to foreign influence in the territory and the last BMS missionaries had to leave in 1968. The establishment of the Union Territory of Mizoram in 1972 restored stability but the Western missionary era there had effectively ended.

However, the year the missionaries were leaving, the Zoram Baptist Mission was formed to co-ordinate the missionary outreach of the Baptist Church of the Mizo District. By 1989, the mission had 88 home missionaries working among non-Mizos in Mizoram, 50 working in other parts of India and 18 in training. This represented a Baptist communicant membership of just over 41,000 supporting more than 580 full time workers.

An inspiration

The Mizo Church is a powerful illustration of a poor rural community taking on the Christian principles and responsibilities of stewardship and evangelism instilled by Lorrain and the other pioneer missionaries.

Mizoram Presbyterian Church was established and founded by a Welsh Missionary named Rev. D.E. Jones in 1897. The first missionary who came to Mizoram was Rev. William Williams, a Welsh missionary who at that time was a missionary in Khasi Hills, North East India (now Meghalaya). He came into Mizoram in 1891 and preached the Gospel among some of the villages. On January 11, 1894, F.W. Savidge and J.H. Lorrain, commissioned by Arthington Aborigines Mission, reached Mizoram. They stayed for four years. On August 31, 1897, Welsh Calvinistic Methodist's (later changed Presbyterian Church of Wales) missionary David Evan Jones set foot on Mizoram and founded the Church.

 

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Presbyterian Church of India logo.jpg

Rev. F.W.Savidge, Rev. W.H.Williams, Rev. J.H.Lorrain, Miss W.M.Jones, Miss Angharad Roberts, Rev. A.Roberts,
Miss Imogen, P.Roberts, Rev. E.L.Mendus, Rev. D.E. Jones, Rev. Edwin Rolands, Rev. J.M.Lloyd, Dr. John Williams, Rev. Lewis Evans, Rev. B.E.Jones, Rev. F.J.Sandy

Christianity is a relatively large minority in Manipur. This includes Meitei Christians. Manipur has less Catholics than Protestants.  A Manipur Baptist Convention exists. The Reformed Presbyterian Church North-East India Synod has its seat in Manipur.  The Presbyterian Church in India and the Church of Christ are present in the state, too.  The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Imphal has its seat in the state. The Manipur Section of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has about 40 conregations.  All Manipur Christian Organisation (AMCO) exists.  The state has or used to have persecution of Christians.

http://www.ucanindia.in/diocesan-directory/home/diocese/imphal/108/

 


David Evan Jones ‘Zosaphluia’
D. E. Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ and his wife with a group of Mizo evangelists in 1916.

 

Archdiocese image of Imphal
Catholic Presence in North East Frontier Provinces of India

The Archdiocese of Imphal covers the entire State of Manipur which is bounded by Nagaland in the North, Mizoram in the South, Upper Myanmar in the East and Cachar district of Assam in the West.

The American Baptists began a successful mission in Manipur in 1908 among the hill tribes of Manipur and the missionaries had no permission from the Maharajah of Manipur to work among the Meiteis. One of the outstanding pioneer missionary was William Pettigrew. The first Catholic priest, Rev. Fr Angsgar Koenigsbaver, sds, a German Salvatorian missionary looking after Assam Mission, came to Manipur in the year 1912. He found 19 Catholics, 17 of whom belong to the band of the regiment which was stationed here. The Maharajah of Manipur told Fr. Angsgar that he had no objection to the opening of a Catholic Mission in Imphal, the capital of the princely State. Due to the limited resources and personnel the opportunity to evangelize Manipur could not be realized.

Thirty six years later, two Salesian missionaries, Fr O. Marengo, sdb, and Fr. Attilio Colussi, sdb, who were working in Guwahati, Assam, visited Imphal. On meeting the Maharajah they were told: "You (missionaries) are welcome to Manipur. I am a former pupil of St. Edmund’s School, Shillong.” He gave them permission to enter Manipur and operate their mission in the hills of Manipur. This implied that they were not to work in the Valley, which had been dominated by the Hindu Vaishnavites and some pockets of Muslims. The Missionaries visited Ukhrul, a hill station in the east, on that occasion.

The organized work of evangelization in Manipur actually began with the erection of the Diocese of Dibrugarh in 1951, with Bishop O. Marengo, sdb, as Manipur was drawn within his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Every year Bishop Marengo visited Manipur and pushed the work ahead with the co-operation of the burning zeal of the laity.

The Catholic faith among the Tangkhuls, one of the first hill tribes to accept the faith, was brought by Mr. Dominic Shomi, former pupil if St. Anthony’s School, Shillong, and Mr. George Hongrei, former student of Don Bosco School, Guwahati. In 1952, Fr Marocchino, chaplain of the Kohima Hospital, was invited to Hundung, a village near Ukhrul. Mr. Shomi had prepared 350 persons ready to embrace the faith. Fr. Marocchino gave them more instructions and received them into the Church.

The best way to promote the work of evangelization, as Bishop Marengo saw it, was to have resident priests in the area. Losing no time, he sent Fr A. Ravalico, sdb, and Fr Peter Bianchi, sdb, as the first resident priests who reached Imphal on March 5, 1956. Initially, they lived in a rented house in Imphal. The following year, on May 7, 1957, they acquired a new house (the present site of the “Nirmalabas”) in the heart of the town. Towards the end of that year, Fr Felix, sdb, and Fr Venturoli, sdb, joined them in the mission. The Church in Manipur began to take its roots gradually and firmly.

The vastness of the Lord's vineyard demanded more workers to the harvest. In 1958, Fr Joseph Kachiramattam, the first diocesan priest to step into Manipur soil, arrived in Imphal and joined the community of the Salesian missionaries. Later, two other diocesan priests, Fr Mathew Planthottam and Fr Mani Parenkulangara reached Manipur in 1959 and 1961 respectively. Since then, more priests and religious have strengthened the promotion of the evangelization work in Manipur. Among the pioneering Women Religious Congregations, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA), the Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC), Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) and Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS) are also worth mentioning.

The Diocese of Kohima - Imphal which included the two states of Nagaland and Manipur was erected on January 29, 1973 by Pope Paul VI, with Rt. Rev. Abraham Alangimattathil, sdb, as its first Bishop.

Bifurcating the Diocese of Kohima - Imphal, the Diocese of Imphal comprising of the entire State of Manipur was erected by Pope John Paul II on April 21, 1980 with Rt. Rev. Joseph Mittathany, then bishop of Tezpur, as its first Bishop. Later, on August 1, 1995 His Holiness, John Paul II, raised the Diocese to the status of an Archdiocese with Most Rev Joseph Mittathany as the Archbishop.