In the presence of greatness
- by Easterine Iralu
23rd Sept 2004 (Nagaland Post)
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the most unassuming human being. The Tromsdalen Church, Tromso, Norway, where he was to speak, reminded me of the Church in the book of Revelation.
Like the bride of Christ preparing for her groom, the Church was in such readiness to greet his august presence that one could not help feeling the importance of the Archbishop's persona.
The TV crew added to the tension already perceivable in the church.
One-time Nobel Peace Prize winner and the main figure in the reconciliation process in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has won many hearts all over the world for his courage in speaking for peace. The Tromsdalen Church choir was impressive with an excellent pianist and drummer playing pan-African drums.
When he finally walked in, Desmond Tutu was a large smile on a small man, a smile that immediately endeared the waiting congregation to him.
His sermon was amazingly simple: he spoke of the world around us and the world as Christ wants it to be. He ended by urging the Christian world to respond to Christ's call for help.
That small church responded by collecting 23,000 kroner for the victims of the Sudan crisis. Yet not many in the congregation were moneyed.
The Archbishop had touched hearts and spoken to people from the heart. When the atmosphere began to steadily grow formal, the archbishop defused the formality with an impromptu little jig!
What does one feel in the presence of a great man? A deep sense of worth and value. Desmond Tutu was neither pompous nor hurried.
He had time or rather he made time for all the people who wanted to meet him.
And the smile was spontaneous and welcoming. I felt that this was a demonstration of the essence of greatness and those in high positions would do well to inculcate the wonderful humility of the Archbishop.
Equally at ease and almost as warm as the Archbishop was the Crown Prince of Norway, Prince Haakon, who inaugurated the PEN International meet at Tromso on the 6th September 2004. He was accompanied by the Chief of Police and the Mayor of the county council.
The meet was attended by writers, publishers, poets and essayists from all over Europe and the rest of the world represented by the USA, Australia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nagaland.
While I tried as best as I could to answer the Prince's million dollar question, “Tell me all about your country” I simultaneously felt ashamed that we were, at this point in History, so torn apart by factionalism that to tell the whole Naga story would be so damning on us all.
Will we ever see a tomorrow when all Nagas have come together in brotherhood to work for the Naga future? If it was possible for South Africa why should it be so difficult for Nagaland?
Nagaland also received honour and recognition at the NANA international festival of indigenous culture when they commemorated the Nagaland Day on the 14th of August.
NANA, which is an Association of Artists worldwide offers opportunity for Naga Arts and crafts. It was highly encouraging that our crudely made crafts were admired for their hand made virtues and Naga Art received news
space on Norwegian TV and the Newspapers.
Perhaps our artists here could think of exhibitions at such forums where their art will receive the recognition that it deserves.
Another point for celebration was the Sami-Naga Friendship initiated in the 1990s by Dr Visier Sanyü and Sami friends of his where the cultural affinity of the two races has further cemented the bonds of friendship. The truths at home are saddening, the terrible child rapes and killings of factional members which blight our daily news.
For some days of traveling and sharing the Naga story, I felt that it was a great heritage to be a Naga. But what we have made of ourselves and what we are doing to one another is nothing to be proud of. Can we stop for a moment and rededicate ourselves to living worthy lives again?