Waging Peace in Nagaland

In a remote part of India, the world’s largest democracy, the democratic process came to a grinding halt recently. On February 23, more than 85 percent of the voters in Nagaland, a region in northeastern India, boycotted the Indian parliamentary elections to show support for a solution—"not just an election"—to the violent conflict that has taken place in the region for more than 50 years.

Nagaland, also known as Nagalim, is 90 percent Christian (mostly Baptist) and claims no ethnic or cultural connection to India. Since the end of British colonial rule, Nagaland has been involved in a low-level civil war with India, after that country annexed the region. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 Nagas have been killed—mostly by Indian security forces, but a large number have also died as a result of fighting between Naga factions.

According to Rev. Daniel L. Buttry, program director of the Gavel Memorial Peace Fund of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, on the day before the election, "100 percent of the Baptist churches [in Nagaland] held prayer services for peace and displayed white flags for peace. About 70 percent of the homes and businesses had white flags displayed. There were no bullets fired during the whole process. All but the ruling Congress Party withdrew from the election and the other parties won’t even run a slate of candidates. Though the Congress Party holds office, it has basically been shown to be invalid.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
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