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Working towards a state of peace

Nagaland movement sets out to steer young people away from violence

Working towards a state of peace
A Peace Channel group discussion
Lissy Maruthanakuzhy, Guwahati

May 4, 2011

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An army of 5,000 messengers is fanning out all over the northeastern state of Nagaland to set up a "culture of peace".

The messengers -- school and college students, teachers and civil society leaders -- are part of the ‘Peace Channel’ pioneered by Father C. P. Anto. "The Peace Channel is a new attempt to educate young people in peace and human rights," says Father Mathew Thuniampral, who directs Kohima diocese’s Education Commission. Kohima is the capital of Nagaland state, which borders Myanmar and where insurgent groups have unleashed a reign of terror. Church people say kidnappings, robbery and drug-related problems are common in the area, as is the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The state’s 16 principal tribes have different linguistic and dialectical variations, a major reason for internecine conflicts. Father Anto, who also directs the Peace Channel, claims the movement has succeeded in uniting various tribal and religious communities to work for peace and development in the region. The movement, which started in 2005, now has over 5,000 members, including around 100 teachers and more than 500 civil society leaders, who work in tandem to create positive changes in society, the priest said. It all began, 14 years ago, when Father Anto came to the aid of the principal of Loyola School, where he was teaching as a seminarian. Six armed young men came to the school demanding money. Father Anto pleaded with the robbers not to shoot the principal when one of the youths took aim at him. A few days later some of the robbers were killed. "The news hit me hard. They were young men lost to violence. I decided to do something to create peace in this trouble-torn region. So I began the Peace Channel." It was launched on September 21, 2005, at an interfaith meeting where more than 2,000 youths came forward to try and make a difference in society by making a pledge for peace, Father Anto recalled. The movement conducts interfaith meetings, ecumenical gatherings and inter-cultural exchange programs, as well as running its People’s Forum for Peace. "We have succeeded a great deal in reducing the differences among religions and cultures," Father Anto claimed. Yomakumba, a student and Peace Channel member in Dimapur agrees. "I am a completely transformed person after joining. I never pictured myself as being so confident and bold. But here I am doing all the things I thought were impossible," he said. The main reason for this, he says, he now has "so many friends from different tribes, religions and regions." Angela Pao, a tenth grader, says her friends have helped bring positive changes in people she meets. "My club visits hospitals to pray for patients and show them our care and concern." Robert Myingthungo, another member, says they have also found jobs for some school dropouts. Related stories: Baptist Youth stress reconciliation among Naga tribes
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