KOHIMA, India (FR) – News about ground-breaking peace accords or world-shaking political movements probably won’t come out of this small, politically insignificant state in far east India. However, Nagaland has distinguished itself by being the only Christian state in the world with a 90 percent Christian population … with record numbers of youth pledging their lives to missions. Mass prayer meetings are held once a month for the nation as well as for the neighboring countries of Burma, Bhutan, China and Pakistan.
The radical transition from being a Hindu state comprised of loosely organized tribes to a Christian government took place as a result of an unusual revival that swept through the villages and tribes between 1976 and 1978. Miraculous healings were commonplace, said Rev. Joseph Paul of Christ for Nagaland Ministries, which began when “hundreds of people confessed their sins and repented of their old ways.” There are proportionately more born-again believers in Nagaland than any other place in the world, according to statistics gathered by Operation World.
Despite the revival, Nagaland is closed to outsiders because of the danger of military insurgency. Since 1947, Indian armed forces were kept in Nagaland, and Naga insurgents against the Hindu police were “put down with a cruel hand,” said Rev. Paul. “Until 1972 there was always fighting and killing of innocent Naga tribals. Peace, if one can call it peace, was here only from 1980.”
During the 1970s, Nagaland was nearly a police state, with many suffering at the hands of Hindu security forces. “Even as late as 1979 Naga villagers were shot at and killed by the Hindu armed forces of Assam,” said Rev. Paul. “This was played down by the Indian government, which always termed any trouble with Nagas as Naga insurgency. During these times the church called the people to fast and pray.”
Strategically located next to Burma and surrounded by China, Bangladesh and India, Rev. Paul said he believes that Naga youth are the key to evangelizing these predominantly Hindu and Muslim nations. At Christ for Nagaland Bible College, students are taught sacrificial living, which prepares them to live a life of “barefoot evangelism.” They are then sent to the tribes of Arunchal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma and across the China border.
Prior to each semester, the students fast and pray for two days. “Students are also taught to fast and pray for their individual and corporate needs.” Rev. Paul added that his goal is to train 2,000 leaders. Currently there are 62 missionaries who have been trained and sent into those countries.
Christianity was planted in Nagaland by American Baptist missionaries in the 1800s. When they came, Nagaland was basically a warrior nation. However, Christianity reversed the tide of tribal warfare. “At great risk to their lives, the American pioneer missionaries brought the gospel to the Nagas,” Paul explained.