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[Thu ciapteh] When the world of Zomi changed

Rev. Dr. J. M. Ngul Khan Pau The Zomi are a group of tribes, who are living in three different countries, namely Bangladesh , India and in Myanmar . Due to their nomadic lifestyles, constant inter-tribe conflicts, and the divide and rule policy of the British colonialism, these tribes were separated from one another into different countries. Dr Laldena has rightly observed by saying, Zomi were perhaps one of the worst victims of the onslaught of British imperialism. They were divided and scattered throughout Southeast Asia (Neihsial 1984:1). To give a detailed description of the land, each of its distinct cultural practices and customs would be a great deal of work. Additionally contacting Zomis from Sylhet and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, to get enough information about them will be very difficult. Zo people are Mongoloid by race. One of the marks of the Mongolian race is a blue spot at the bottom of anew born baby. According to the anthropological term it is know as Blue Mongolian Spot. Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group. The main focus of this paper will be Zo people from the chin state in Myanmar and from the two states of India namely Manipur and Mizoram. According to the record of Dr. Marrison, the then Linguistic Advisor Bible Society of India and Ceylon ( Sri Lanka ) Zomi regions cover parts of different political areas, as follows: 1. Assam: part of the north Cachar and Mikir Hills, part of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Lushai Hills (Mizoram). 2. Nagaland: part of the extreme south 3. Manipur: state 4. Tripura: state 5. East Pakistan ( Bangladesh ): Sylhet District and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. 6. Burma: The Chin Hills 7. Special Division (Chin State), where large Chin groups including Tedim, Falam, and Hakas are to be found, and part of the Magwe Division (Pakokku and Thayetmyo) and Arakan Division (Arakan Hill Tracts, Akyab, Kyaukpyu and Sandoway), where various southern Chin tribes are located (Khup Za Go 1988:177). The Term Zomi or Mizo, Kuki and Chin (pp. 11-12:) The wind of national consciousness and ethnic resurgence did give insights and re-examination of their names. Zo tribes, who are recognized by the Indian government under the Scheduled tribes in India , would like to have a common nomenclature by which they should be known. Zomi being their name of origin, seven tribes from Manipur state adopted this name in June 26, 1993 at Pearsonmun, Churachandpur. The seven tribes are: Paite, Gangte, Hmar, Simte, Zou, Tedim Chin and Vaiphei. One of the important resolutions is about having Common Identity and their resolution goes like this: Common Identity In the continuation of Zomi movement, the members felt the necessity of having a common identity with which all tribes can identify themselves without any reservation or hesitation for unity, solidarity and safety. The leaders present, therefore, adopted the name ZOMI for common identity which will take immediate effect from today (Nehkhojang 1993:1). *Manipur a Zomite genkhahna lah deu teng type-khiet Changes in Zomi Religion (pp. 95-97) The Zomi world has been changed dramatically as a result of the Gospel. One time spirit and demon-trodden people are now living in a new way as a result of Christianity and education as well. Today, they are aware that their Traditional religion did not satisfy them. They are tired offering series of sacrifices and living in constant fear. G K Nang has drawn a table of comparative elements of workshop from Christian and Animist perspectives that show the deplorable condition of Zomis Traditional religion: Christianity Mans response to God Prayer to God Confession Self-sacrifice (Spiritual service) Adoration Reverence Unity Love Thanksgiving Giving Trust Devotion Remembrance Fellowship Praise (1994:4) Animism Mans response to spirits Prayer to spirits Confession Animal

(Sacrifice) Propitiation Fear Independence (sometimes corporate) Worry Ritualism Receiving Suspicion Alienation The Gospel has change the mountains and the valley of Zoland , and today there are churches where there was once worship of demons. Where traditional religious pillars were erected now stand Jubilee Stones which marked the coming of Christianity. In one of the newsletters of a missionary in North East India, this wonderful transformation of the tribes was recorded thus: The mountains that formerly echoed with blood-curdling war cries are now re-echoing the harmony of Christian hymns. Their forefathers were head-hunting animists and used to sing their head-hunting chants, but they have now exchanged for the hymns of fraternal love. The children of the head-hunting people have now become the children of God (Zaithanga 1981:48). The days of harvest still continues in Zomi inhabited areas, the rapid development both in the way of living and in the Christina life cannot be ignore. Even a Hindu writer wrote about the changes he saw among the Hill people of Manipur state: The missionaries have succeeded in modernizing the tribal people of Manipur. Indeed they have unlocked and opened up the closed doors of these primitive people in the light of modern education. There are now many scientists, professor of art, literature, history, sociology, commerce and economics, amongst the tribal Christian communities in Manipur. Tow of the chief ministers of Manipur had been tribal Christians (Gori 1984:114). Indeed there area changes still taking place. Zo people, who were once the children of darkness and living in fear, are the children of God. They have no fear of the evil forces, because in Christ they are victorious (Rom 8:37). Now they are the chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Gods own possession (1 Pet 2:9). In the midst of evil forces, they are assured that the One who is in them is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). They are free from the penalty of sin, in Christ, from the power of the spirits in Christ, and they are no more primitive, pre-literate, filthy Zomi, but one with any other races in Gods big family. The Coming of Christianity to the World of Zomi (pp. 119) When we trace the history of Christianity to the Zo people, we cannot ignore the heroic attempts of dedicated men and women of God. Many of them gave their lives and the memorial stones of their lives still speak to us today. The earliest attempt at Protestant missionary work in Burma was at Rangoon , where Messrs. Chater and Mardon, of the Baptist Missionary Society of England, opened a mission in 1807. Felix Carey, son of William Carey, came soon after Chater and Mardon, remaining until 1814. The London Missionary Society sent two missionaries to Rangoon in 1808, but within a year one died and the other left (Warburton 1908:310). Adoniram Judson and his wife, who originally came in order to work in India , were not permitted by the East India Company. They sailed to Rangoon on the suggestion of William Carey, and arrived there on July 13, 1813 (Wa 1963:4), Judson was the outstanding Protestant missionary to Burma . While he was a student of Andover Theological Seminary, he and his friends brought a petition from the theological students of Andover Theological Seminary to the American Board of Commission in order to bring the Foreign Mission into being (Latourette, Vol 6:226). Later, he himself was the first missionary sent abroad by that society. The First Missionary Couple to Chin Hills (p.120) Arthur E. Carson reached Rangoon on December 13, 1886, and was married to Laura L. Hardin, just five days later. The marriage took place in Bassein at the Sgaw Karen mission compound. They were the first American Baptist missionary couple assigned to work among the Zomi. On February 2, 1899, they left Thayetmyo, their mission station and head quarters for eight years, for Chin Hills , where no mission work had ever been done. They arrived at Haka on March 15, 1899, six weeks after setting out from Thayetmyo. While in Thayetmyo they had several converts and, besides the Carsons, there were 18 unordained native preachers, one ordained native preachers, nine churches, 205 members and 47 baptized members (Johnson 1988:11). One night Arthur and Laura Carson arrived at Haka, Laura Carson wept bitterly, not more because of my disappointment in the place and the people than for my own ability to meet the situation bravely (Carson 1927:163). Arthur, I cant do it! I simply cant do it! How can I possibility stay here for a lifetime? she tearfully asked. Arthur told her, Dont talk that way. Thing will look brighter in the morning (Ibid 163). Then Laura remembered their motto: I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me (Phil 4:13). With that motto, they went to bed and rose the next morning, determined to give their lives for Christ to win the wild tribes. To the Zomis in Mizoram and Manipur (pp. 125-127) J H Lorrain and F W Savidge were the first missionaries to Mizoram (then called Lushai Hills) under the Arthingto Aborigine Mission. They both felt called of God toward the rising of the sun. When they arrived in North East India, they came to know that Mizoram was opened by the British government. They then begged the authorities to allow them to settle there. They were able to enter Mizoram on Boxing Day, 1893, with great joy to realize their dreams and hope had been fulfilled. They arrived at Aizawl on January 11, 1894. They trusted the Mizos implicitly, and soon won their confidence by simple kindness and by medical services. Because of their loving concern and services, the Mizos conferred upon them the title Zosap, which means Sahib for Mizos (Hminga 1987:49). Christianity caught on among the Mizos like a wild fire. In the 1940s, there were villages in which all people were Christian. There were even some villages founded where only Christians were allowed to dwell. In the 1951 census of India , 91% or 178,000 of 196,000 Mizos were Christians, and 56,000 or 29% of them could read and write. In 1980, a special census was carried out jointly by the three major churches the Presbyterian Church of Mizoram, the Baptist Church of Mizoram and the Independent Church of Maraland. According to that census, the Christian population of the state formed 92.52% of the total population. The non-Christian population which formed 7.48% of the total, was divide into Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and animistic groups (Ibid. 334). According to Johnstone, the Christian percentage in 1993 was 95% (Johnstone 1993:286). The North East India General Mission Churches (now renamed as Evangelical Congregational Churches of India) in Manipur are mostly in the sought district, mainly among the Zomi tribes. In 1897, a Vaiphei Zomi young man, Lungpau by name, went to Singzawl village and there he saw a man reading a book. He was very much attracted by this and had a strong desire to learn how to read and write. Accordingly, he went to Aizawl to study with his boyhood comrade, Thangkai. Dr. Frazer and Rev., Watkin Robert gave them admission and supported them.

In 1909, a copy of St. Johns Gospel in Lushei dialect found its way into the hand of Kamkholun, the chief of Senvawn village. He was so much interested in the message of the Gospel that he extended an invitation to the white missionaries to Aizawl. Dr. Frazer and Rev. Robert felt the invitation from Kamkholun of Senvawn was a Macedonian Call. So, in March 1910, Rev. Robert set out toward Manipur, taking with him the two young Vaiphei men and some other as his porters. On March 17, 1910, on their way to Vervek village, the two young men accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, and became the first converts among the Zomi tribes in Manipur (Vaiphei 1981:65). The North East India General Mission has been effective in its evangelistic works. Churches are established among the following Zomi sub-tribes: The Paite, the Vaiphei, the Kukis, the Hmars, the Gangtes, the Zous and the Simtes. ECCI (the then NEIGM) is not affiliated with any denomination in India ; they have a Presbyterian form of church structure and administration. The growth of Christianity among the Zomis in Manipur is remarkable. By 1931, there were 2,478 Christians, in 1935 it grew up to 4,856 members, by 1948 it had 15,000, and in 1960 the membership was 26,678. Today, they are the largest and most mission-oriented churches in the south district of Manipur. After seventy-five years, this church became not only a self-support church but a missionary sending church with more than 127 missionaries serving in different parts of India , as well as other countries such as Bhutan , Burma and Thailand (Khaizakham 1988:4-5). Courtesy: When the World of Zomi Changed (A product submitted to the faculty of Western Conservation Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon, USA in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Missiology by J M Ngul Khan Pau. August 30, 1995).


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