The article by Aiborlang Nongsiej (Shillong Times 09/14/2022) asks the question “Has Christianity destroyed culture?” and concludes that it is “completely unjustified to blame Christianity for the loss of culture”. When you start a discussion with a question, it usually involves both sides of the debate. I was therefore disappointed to read a one-page article. Being dogmatic about cultural aphorisms or axioms precludes discussion. Nonetheless, it is true that Christianity has brought benefits to converted communities, and the author has quoted some of them. I wholeheartedly agree with much of his list.
Studies of the influence of Christianity and conversion on colonized and indigenous cultures would fill an encyclopedia, and it is difficult to present this literature in a single article, let alone a letter to the editor. Many of these books and articles were written by church leaders and theologians, but also by anthropologists, historians, and sociologists. It is important to remember that many tribes underwent mass conversion. Rev. CF Andrews, the Anglican priest and a leading missionary in India, denounced the practice of aggressive proselytizing as “a trafficking in people’s souls.”
The early missionary accounts described tribes using derogatory terms such as savages, superstitious, pagans, primitives, and heathens. Cultural knowledge and practices were denigrated. Church documents have described a well-known festival among the Khasis as a sex orgy and denounced the practice of families sleeping in one room. Church members were even banned from participating in the harvest dances. The Garo Jungle Book contains numerous examples of slander.
Several contemporary accounts have described Christianity’s mixed impact on culture. One is the book Welsh Missionaries and British Imperialism by Andrew May, Professor of History at the University of Melbourne and great-great-grandson of Thomas Jones. Another book is Voices from the Margins by Jangkholam Haokip and David Smith. Verrier Elwin, considered the father of tribal anthropology, wrote 25 books on the tribes of India. He lived the last decade of his life in Shillong. Prof. Tiplut Nongbri states that “Elwin was averse to Christian missionaries because of their contempt for tribal cultures”.
The founding of the Seng Khasi in 1899 was an attempt to hold back the “onslaught of Westernization and the heavy influence of Christianity in the 18th century”. According to one report, “The traditional practices of the Khasi stood on the brink of an abyss – one nudge and the identity would be lost forever.” The pioneers of the 16 Khasi youth came together and founded the Seng Khasi to protect the indigenous religion and culture.
Cultural identity is an important factor in individual and community well-being. In order to enable a holistic existential view of ourselves as tribals, we need to take a balanced look at the profound changes being exerted on our society by outside influences.
Glenn C. Kharkongor,
Unemployment is a ticking time bomb
I find it hilarious to read the figure of 1.8% unemployment rate that our Chief Minister recently gave in response to a question in the Assembly. Where did the officers who briefed the Chief Minister get that figure of 1.8%? From the employment offices? If so, don’t they realize that our armies of unemployed people are no longer reporting to these employment offices because they have long since become useless?
Even more hilariously, opposition members swallowed this type of information without eliciting a squeak. Do our 60 legislators live under a rock? Of course! Otherwise they would have seen that, with a few exceptions, every family with adult children has at least one unemployed member. The detachment of our legislators from reality is incredible!
In reality youth unemployment in Meghalaya is no less than 40-50% and rising and no doubt this is a ticking time bomb but who cares?
Shillong – 2.
Indifferent attitude from PHED
What if an irresponsible person constantly serves you contaminated food? You might get sick while the one who served carries a trace of negative karma. Whether one agrees or not, the retribution of negative karma is much more “painful.” I will not elaborate further on the inevitably far-reaching consequences of an inhumane attitude/action, but PHED has “accumulated” a lot of negative karma over the years. The health of part of the city’s population has been affected by the indifferent attitude of PHED authorities. Now, how can we excuse this department when muddy water with oily substances is spurting out of the PHE water lines? This is ethically unforgivable. No agency has the RIGHT to make the public “drink cloudy untreated water.”
It should be noted that my previous letter – “PHE Shall Not Supply Untreated Water” (ST August 8, 2022) was in response to the desperate pleas of some of those affected, including some notable doctors in the city. Of course, that letter also prompted a quick response from the Director of Health Services (DHS), but the PHED is seemingly noncommittal and is still turning a deaf ear. That’s why cloudy water keeps bubbling out of our PHE pipes! How long does it take to fix things like this? Shouldn’t the public be informed about the water treatment plant in the event of a malfunction? In official parlance, it is a serious case of breach of duty.
A conscientious citizen, Mr. AN Kharmawphlang, thundered in his rejoinder entitled “Non-potable water in 21st century Meghalaya” (ST 9 August 2022) – “If in 50 years the government was unable to bring the residents to provide the city with clean, pure water, then what are we celebrating 50 years of statehood and 75 years of India’s freedom for?”
A local doctor replies that providing untreated water and thereby endangering the health of the population is no small crime. If the agency in question is so “irresponsible” and the management so lax, who can guarantee that some evil spirits won’t jump over the fence and dump toxic or harmful chemicals into a water tank? There are all possibilities for such an offense.
Another poor lady, a vegetable vendor, says: “We lower-class people don’t have the luxury of boiling water every day; In addition, the price of LPG cylinders has increased significantly. The PHED should empathize with our condition and provide us with drinking water. Aren’t the authorities of the PHE human?” I wholeheartedly agree with this poor vendor. Yes, most homes in the state don’t have water filters and mostly filter the muddy and slippery water with a cloth and then drink it.
How ironic that we boast of living in the digital age and are passionate about digitizing our lifestyle with a range of 5G devices, while at home we or our confreres are forced to filter the water like in the prehistoric times. Nothing is more shameful than this. Is PHED listening, or does it want to accumulate even more negative karma by making the public continuously drink murky water that is undrinkable? His silence can never dilute divine retribution.