Of God and Caesar   


By HH Mohrmen

Crisis has indeed brought out to the fore what is within a person and the incident inside the Meghalaya State Assembly on May 22, last is an indication that it can really get out of control especially if religious colour is added to it. The action of the Shillong North MLA and lone member of the Khun Hynñiewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) in the assembly is not only unprecedented but it has raised many questions about the MLA’s  attitude towards other religions and the principle of KHNAM itself as a political party.

All along Adelbert Nongrum has been a lone ranger. He does not even have good relations with the other leaders of the KHNAM and since the party is registered with the Election Commission, we the citizens of Meghalaya have the right to know who the President of the party is right now? The leadership crisis in the party came up to the fore when the two stalwarts of KHNAM fought it out in the ECI and the Court. On March 25, 2019 the Meghalaya High Court recognised Pyndapborthiaw Saiborne as the President of Party. Now when the Party has not been able to resolve the leadership crisis that is gripping it, the next question that the party needs to come clear with the public is, whether KHNAM is a secular party?  Or is KHNAM a new religious right party now? Has KHNAM in its new avatar become a Christian party? Can the public take, from the lone MLA of the party’s statement and actions in the Assembly that this as an indication of the new stand of the party?

Adelbert Nongrum like any politicians likes to be in the limelight. Publicity is the very air they breathe and they suffocate if they are not mentioned in the media. In May 2016 Adelbert Nongrum went for an indefinite fast unto death (hunger strike) demanding that the Governor give his assent to the pending KHADC VAB 2014. But it is for the public to decide what has come out of the fast. One is also not sure what Adelbert’s political inclinations are and whether he is with the MDA or the MUA.  At one point of time it was not clear whether he is in the treasury bench or with the Opposition or in between.

Adelbert’s actions are the epitome of people who are wear their religion on their sleeves. It is a consequence of spiritual arrogance that is prevailing amongst the members of many churches now. These are people who think that only their religion is true; only their holy book is important and the other religions are not favoured by God. Since their God is superior, they presume that they can do anything on those whose religions they consider inferior and insignificant. Secularism is where your freedom ends and the rights of the other citizens begins. In short it means respecting each other’s religious beliefs. It is remembering that one’s freedom to swing one’s stick ends where one’s neighbour’s nose begins. It is matter of the spirit, yet some people like to show their religious fervour not realizing that religion is like one’s private parts (pardon my language), not meant for public display.

From the statement in the press, this is what Adelbert said on the floor of the House, verbatim, “We should take COVID-19 as a punishment as we are sinful human beings, hypocrisy, abortion, recognising same sex marriage are going on all around the world. This is not just a war against the invisible enemy but a fight against our faith.” The question is that if the pandemic is a punishment from God then why is Adelbert supporting the Government’s fight against it? One would not expect him to seek for help people because it is the will of God. One would expect that he accepts it gracefully and do nothing but pray because acting against the will of God is a sin. How many people agree with him that the pandemic is a punishment from God?

He is against what the scientists the world over who have corroborated their findings about this disease. He is not accepting that COVID-19 is a virus which jumps species? If the scientists come up with a cure to the disease will he not accept it? Or if in one year’s time scientists come up with a vaccination will he not administer himself or his near and dear ones with the vaccine because the virus is a punishment as commanded by God himself? One would expect that politicians like him would weigh their words before they make statements especially in the floor of the House, but sadly his over-zealous nature got over him.

Adelbert’s statement saying, ‘We should take COVID-19 … not just a war against the invisible enemy but a fight against our faith…’is wrong in the first place. From this statement and his using the Bible which is the holy book of the Christians it is inferred that Adelbert is taking for granted that all Meghalayans are Christians. Who gave him the right to assume that all citizens of Meghalayans are Christians? This is the height of holier than thou attitude which is emerging in many Christians now replacing the real Christ of the synoptic gospels. Where is the Jesus who is humble and teaches love and forgiveness? And instead of trying to be Christ-like to love our neighbours, we want them to be punished for being different from us!

In Adelbert’s sweeping statement one may ask, ‘Where is Jesus who taught us to pray, “Forgive us and our sins as we forgive others?” Where is the loving and forgiving father whom Jesus has spoken about through his sermons and parables in the gospels? Instead of trying to be Christ-like, we immerse ourselves in the holier than thou attitude calling others sinners. The loving and forgiving father is now being replaced by the vindictive God of fury who punishes sinners. Perhaps it was instances like these which compelled Gandhi to say ‘I love Jesus but I don’t like your Christianity’. When asked why didn’t he become a Christian, a person who read all religious scriptures and conduct interfaith services in his ashram said, ‘if being Christian means following the teachings of Jesus I am already one’.

Christianity will go further down this road if politicians have their way, because at the end of the day all politicians are the same. They graduate from the same school and their sole objective is to win the next elections even if that means dividing people. The case is more ironic with KHNAM. The party which derives its name from the folk story of the Hynñiewtrep- Hynñiewskum the creation story of the people, is neglecting the Khun ki Niam Khasi Niamtre, the very people to which the story is no less important than the story in the first and second chapters of the Book of Genesis. For the followers of Niam Khasi Niamtre, Hynñiewtrep- Hynñewskum is not just a story but the foundation of their beliefs and that of the jaidbynriew.

Adelbert did not realize that his action has far reaching consequences. Now it is obvious that the party is using the name Hynñiewtrep for political expediency only while their heart is somewhere else. Perhaps KHNAM should consider changing its name to suit its new political avatar. Adelbert and even the Government has ignored the people in the indigenous belief system. For them the real Khun u Hynñiewtrep- Hynñiewskum are but potential converts to expand the kingdom of God on earth. Does it occur to us that actions like this and calling Meghalaya a Christian state hurt their sentiment too?

It is now obvious that mixing religion with the pandemic issue does not augur well with the state.  The first Coronavirus case was reported in the state a day after the Conrad Sangma led Easter service, and now after Adelbert’s action in the August House, more cases are being reported in Meghalaya. The government under the leadership of Conrad Sangma is to be blamed for mixing religion with politics. The Easter service would have been more acceptable if it is was an interfaith service where all faith groups in the state are involved. But it turned out to be a Christian service and people are blaming the Government for the outcome in the state after the service. The most important lesson for the government and politicians is to avoid mixing religion with politics because it seems that God, does not like to be dragged into politics.