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Monday, October 14, 2013

By Yochanan Phaltual - Shavei Israel Administrator, India

I am not a trained comforter and at a time someone needs to console it is very difficult to know what to do and what to say.

Last week, Ortal a beautiful daughter of Ya’acov and Rivka Haokip died of acute heart problems. And the same week on Friday, when Tabitha Phalnei and her husband Eleazar Zara Singson were busily preparing for the Shabbat, their loving daughter Rakhel Lamvangnei disappeared mysteriously from home and whose current whereabouts is unknown or whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as her location and fate is not known. Till today hundreds of volunteers for missing person searches were deployed in various parts of Churachandpur.

As I look at the parents of Rakhel Singson experiencing a devastating fear and pain, I could not use any of the typical clichĂ©d that are typically used such as telling them “It will be okay”. Thinking about the future without their daughter brought me fear and dread.

As the brevity of the event sets I am ever thankful for the Christian friends who have continue to help to this day.

I think this is an opportune moment to redefine and change perceptions of our relationship with our Christian brethren.

We all know that religion plays a very crucial and central role in everyone’s life. Many people around the world are driven by their religion to keep themselves separated from other faiths. But at various point in time we are inalienable and inseparable parts of the larger community – humanity.

The Bnei Menashe case is a unique one that cannot be completely clubbed under the dichotomy “Judaism - Christian” divide. We are all from the same tribe MENASHE, only dubbed with different nomenclatures, Kuki-Chin-Mizo-Zomi. The reasons are mainly political, linguistic and geographical settlement.

When Christianity came to Manipur and Mizoram a hundred years ago, they brought many boons and disadvantages. They set free from the bondage of fear and superstitions mindset, spread Western education and many social transformation and revolutions.

But on the other side, they destroyed many of our legacy and heritage. We lost many of our rituals and customs, but they could not totally erased our customs and traditions which still bind us together till today whether we belongs to different faiths.

Our larger Christian brethren are always in times of sadness and disaster contributing the bigger role of kindness act. Last week, when baby Ortal died they were according to our forefather custom not to be given a burial place because the parents fail to observe the customary CHEN-JU, a settlement registration to the Chief or to Village Authority. However, the kind hearted Christian Chief of the village allowed us for proper burial in his village.

And in the case of the missing girl Rakhel, the volunteers were largely Christian. This is not the only first instance but a recurring happening in every society of Bnei Menashe. It is time to redefine our perceptions and attitude towards our Christian brethren.

Judaism never teaches us to hate or to be at war with other religion. Rather we are taught to love humankind and be a shining model for others. Though we have different religious practices and believes, we need to create religious harmony which is the key to peaceful co-existence.

It is time to appreciate the good deeds of our Christian brethren. Let’s pledge to work towards bringing religious harmony but not by interfering in the religious matter of other people and opposite any attempt to misuse the religion and create disharmony in our society.

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