February 10, 2006

FROM SALOMES TO EVANGELS:

The Soul Hunters of Central Asia: The most Baptist state in the world—Nagaland—is vying to become a powerhouse for cross-cultural missions (Manpreet Singh, 02/10/2006, Christianity Today)

Your head would be decorating this drawing room had you met my forefathers a hundred years ago," quips Pihoto Khala. He is speaking to a visitor as he recollects the Naga peoples' century-long journey from headhunting to Christianity.

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."

Nagaland actually lives up to its billing. Some 60 percent of Nagaland's 1.9 million people are Baptists, worshiping in more than 20 groups. Tucked away in a remote corner of the world, Nagaland's people are becoming the soul hunters of Central Asia. [...]

[A]tola Subong, told CT that she started a ministry to disciple young girls in Meghalaya, an Indian state neighboring Nagaland.

"Christianity is the best thing that has happened to me," Subong said. "Christ has fulfilled my deeper yearnings. It has done so much good for us. We want to share with others."

This desire is audacious, considering Nagaland's geography and history. Nagaland is a mountainous and landlocked area. Located on the border of Myanmar (Burma), it is one of India's smallest states, about the combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The first American Baptist missionaries, Edward W. Clark and his wife, Mary, arrived in 1872, when it was considered extremely risky to minister to the Nagas' headhunting culture. But the Clarks served faithfully for 21 years in the hill country and helped establish a lasting Christian influence. By the 1890s, the British, who maintained a colonial presence in Nagaland, had outlawed headhunting.

The church grew slowly at first, and then in great spurts during revivals in 1956 and 1966. A third revival took place in 1972, the same year evangelist Billy Graham and an associate, Akbar Haqq, held a three-day November crusade in Kohima with 500,000 people attending.

However, politics and tribal divisions have complicated the church's growth and mission. After India achieved independence in 1947, Naga separatists (many of them Christians) fought fiercely for independence from India. India's government expelled all foreign missionaries from Nagaland, suspecting them of fueling the Nagas' desire for independence. Finally, after years of violence, India permitted Nagaland to become a "self-governing" state inside India. But entry into and exit from Nagaland is monitored closely, even today, since Christian rebels still advocate complete independence (their slogan: "Nagalim for Christ"). A tenuous ceasefire has been in place for about 10 years. An estimated 200,000 have died since 1947 in the low-level conflict, but most recent violence has occurred between tribal Christians over the issue of independence from India.

Despite the unrest, the gospel has taken root, so much so that the region's headhunting heritage is now a distant memory.


Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2006 4:29 PM
Comments

anyone know what ever happend to the clark's heads ?

Posted by: toe at February 10, 2006 5:21 PM

Which is why all we need do is to kick in the front door of the spiritual jailhouse known as Islam, and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 10, 2006 7:56 PM

Nagaland,

Anywhere near Kaffiristan?,

Peachy and Danny

(great movie BTW)

Posted by: jdkelly at February 10, 2006 8:31 PM
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