By PS Haokip
The Lord, our God has been showering His grace and mercy upon us time and time again.
It is only due to His amazing guidance that we, the descendants, the children of Manasseh can meet here on this day and time, in this beautiful pine forested city of Shillong. As a gesture of my love and appreciation on this momentous occasion, I extend my heartfelt greetings and salutations to all brethren present here today. One might ask why we are gathered here today? We have come together here because there is a great need for our Manasseh community to sit and reason collectively.
By divine providence of God, the United Nations Resolution-181 was passed by the UN General Assembly on 29 November 1947, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, thus paving the way for the formal creation of the state of Israel against all unthinkable odds. God named all the Jews who had come back from every nook and corner of the world to live in the newly formed state as Israelites – citizens of the nation of Israel. However, those living in present-day Israel comprise eleven tribes with whom we share the same blood and lineage. We are the descendants of Manasseh, the elder son of Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob. As we see in the book of Genesis 48, Jacob on his deathbed administered a crossed-hand blessing by crossing his hands upon his grandsons – placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, and his left hand on Manasseh, the elder son.
When Joseph protested over the cross-hand blessing, his father Jacob replied, “I know Son, I know”. Joseph then went on to ask his father, “Does this mean that your grandson Manasseh will not receive any blessing from you?” To which Jacob answered in the affirmative and said, “Yes! Manasseh will also receive a blessing later at an appointed time, and he will be great and he will be the Father of many people”.
The Lord has revealed to His chosen servants in no uncertain terms that this present age and time is the era of Manasseh.
I would like to reiterate the fact that we are brothers, and descendants of Manasseh, as God has clearly revealed to His servants, Rev Chomlhun and Pastor Hnamtinkhum.
According to the divine revelation, the people who share a common history and ancestry are as follows:-
25. Upper Chindwin Shan,
58. Rakhine (Arakan)
59. Out-Chin/ Asho Chin,
60. Tai Phake,
61. Tai Ahom,
73. Khasi and
Last, but not the least, Khasi and Jaintia are the latest addition to the Manasseh family, based on revelations following Chavang Kut celebrations in November 2016.
In regard to the revelation, by AD 75, our forefathers, the descendants of Manasseh, were taken captive by the king of China following the fall of the kingdom of Israel in AD 70.
Even though the Chinese king wanted them to work daily, they did not obey his order. Rather, they devoutly observed the Sabbath and worshipped God according to the order of worship written in the scroll. Therefore, the king made a devious plan to stop observing the Sabbath. While they were at work, the king took hold of the scroll and hid it. The scroll contained their religious tenets, doctrines, laws and commandments related to their religion. At that stage, even in the absence of the scroll, our forefathers could still observe the Sabbath and other religious feasts as long as the high priests, who memorized the order of worship, were alive. However, after their death they were unable to perform the religious rites and worship God. In due course of time they forgot their God and eventually lost their Jewish identity. After a gap of six hundred to seven hundred years, their physical features transformed and they became part of the Mongoloid stock. However, a thousand years passed and the thought of freeing themselves from captivity preoccupied their minds.
One day, a hunter discovered a tunnel dug by a porcupine. He followed the tunnel, which led to the outer side of the wall, i.e. the Great Wall of China. Gradually, the people widened the tunnel and made their escape.
Following their escape, a section of the population settled in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, while the rest proceeded towards Siberia and reached near the North Pole. They stayed only a week because it was the time when the sun did not shine in the North Pole. The elders referred to this extraordinary event as MujinLhun, darkness for seven days and seven nights. In the folklore of our brothers the Gangte people, who had become snake worshippers, they feared the sun God was angry and so reverted to Sun worship. In the North Pole there is sunshine for six months of the year, and darkness for six months. Similarly, in the South Pole there is darkness for six months and daylight for six months.
There is no such occurrence on earth as darkness for one week; our ancestors must have wandered in to the North Pole region during the fag end of six-month period of no sunshine because they experienced darkness for seven days and seven nights.
From Mongolia, the Manasseh people headed eastwards, the direction from which the sun rises and went on to North Korea, South Korea and to Japan. As it was difficult to cross the Pacific Ocean, many advanced and settled towards the east coast of China, Taiwan, The Philippines, Yunnan Province in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Burma, North East India, and Bhutan. From Siberia, a section of the population settled in Western China, Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir, and Sikkim.
Our forefathers who settled in Northeast India, Burma and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh were known by the names of two brothers, namely, Songthu and Songja. Pu Songthu (the warrior-leader) led the exit of the children of Manasseh, and Pu Songja and his group remained as the last guard. In the course of their long journey from China, Pu Songthu left a trail (marks cut on the lhanket, a common local tree and slashed plantain trees) for his younger brother, Pu Songja’s group to follow. The Lhanket is peculiar specie; once cut, the mark would turn darkish in no time. The plantain tree would sprout out fresh shoots in a very short period. When the group who were in the middle reached the trail left behind by Pu Songthu, they appeared very old. This made them think their brother’s party was too far ahead to keep up with, and decided to move towards present-day Myanmar, Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Similarly, when Pu Songja’s group saw the trail left by Pu Songthu and his group and found it to be old, they thought their brothers were too far ahead to catch up with and so decided not to proceed further and settled in present-day Karen State, Shan State, Mon State, Karanni State, Chin State, Sagaing Division, Arakan State, Kachin State.
Pu Songthu’s group moved towards the Chin Hills, Mizoram, Chittagong Hills Tract of Bangladesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. Our forefathers were scattered and dispersed, which is the will and purpose of God: dispersion, loss of the scroll in China and their Jewish identity has made them receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.
To strengthen our fraternal bonds, we have been observing Chavang Kut, a post-harvest festival with the theme ‘Celebration of Brotherhood’ for three consecutive years in Manipur, in 2014, 2015 and 2016. We do not by any means imply that the Kut festival is the grandest of all. It is only that out of the deep affection for one another we have been inviting the Manasseh brethren for the cultural festival year after year. We have partaken, we have reaped the harvest of brotherhood, of oneness by feasting together, sharing a drink, singing, dancing our cultural dances together, conversing with one another and just enjoying each other’s company thus further cementing our familial ties. It would not be an overstatement to say that we all have grown much closer in these last three years, and the bond of brotherhood has been immensely strengthened. We have also had the privilege of having in our midst exemplary and eminent leaders such as Pu Lal Thanhawla, the Hon’ble CM of Mizoram, Pu Conrad K. Sangma Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) Meghalaya, and our Laos brother Pu Khamphone Viengluang and his wife. Their presence has been a real blessing and also reassuring and memorable in many ways. Similarly, it has been a tremendous blessing that you all came from different places for the festival and we had the opportunity to meet one other, and for that we are extremely grateful.
Yes! However, if the interactions of our Manasseh brotherhood were to be confined to just annual cultural exchange alone, the meaning and the significance of our brotherhood will not hold much weight. I am really delighted that the desire to unite was borne out of interactions among our leaders, who on the concluding night of Chavang Kut Festival 2016 unanimously agreed to form a formal body, an organization or a platform for the descendants of Manasseh. Thingnong Umbu, our Singpho brother said in the course of the evening’s discussions, “We say we are blood brothers with the Kachins, then how can we remain silent, how long can we remain a mute spectator to the untold atrocities committed upon them by the Myanmar Military, to the extent that Jet Fighters have been deployed to bomb them in Kachin inhabited areas in Myanmar. What is the point of saying we are brothers when we remain indifferent to their sufferings in their darkest hours?
The pained and insightful statement made by brother Thingnong got the leaders thinking, and thus the deliberation at the dinner program held on the last and final night of Chavang Kut festival to form a formal platform for the brotherhood of Manasseh. Questions that emerged included, “How may we all help the Kachin brothers, the descendants of the same progenitor Manasseh?” “How do we deter the Burmese Military from further attacking our brethren?” Practical suggestions were put forth by the members and all agreed that singularly criticizing or condemning the Burmese Military actions in our respective community’s name will hold no water, the Burmese Military would hardly be deterred, but only look down on us. The members then realized the dire need to form a body, a platform where we could collectively raise our voices as one, as a family, as the children of Manasseh.
When the Burmese Army attacked the Kachin Independent Army camp near Laiza on the 19th November 2014 in which 22 young Kachin fighters made the supreme sacrifice, KNO as blood brothers of the Kachins issued a stern condemnation against the gruesome attack. In fact, I also emphasised the condemnation in my statement at the 14th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held at the UN Headquarters, New York (20th April to 1st May 2015). I must admit that KNO’s lone condemnation against the atrocities committed by the Burmese Army was of little consequence. Therefore, when the leaders collectively decided on the night of 1st November 2016 to form a body named Manasseh Asia Foundation and when names and signatures of the leaders were taken down to endorse the same, I was overjoyed, deeply humbled and truly moved. Words alone were not enough to express the joy I felt, I really was elated and could not hide my excitement. I gave thanks to God for I knew for certain that this was His handiwork and that He has been watching over all of us, the descendants of Manasseh; and that He was multiplying the seed of brotherhood which was first sown at Chavang Kut celebrations held at Moreh in 2014, trusting in His providence alone.
A WhatsApp Group @ Manasseh Family was also subsequently created to facilitate better and real time communication between the Manasseh brotherhood living in different parts in India and in different countries. Since its inception, the Manasseh Family WhatsApp group has been an important tool of communication to exchange ideas, appreciation of one another among the Manasseh fraternity, and as a forum for continued discourse on how far back we can trace our common roots and ancestry, for which I am truly grateful. As the Psalmist eloquently puts it in Psalm 118:23: “The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes”.
While knowing all this, however, why do we leaders need to come together for this meeting in Shillong, today? For example, as our Karbi brother rightly pointed out, “There are many of us who still do not fully understand nor comprehend the fact that we all are undeniably one”.
Therefore, there is a great need for the Manasseh family to meet and interact to share our ideas with one another and to sensitize each other on the history our common origin. It is also the intent of this meeting to come out with an official condemnation on the atrocities of the Burmese Army upon our Kachin Brother because the same fate or catastrophe could befall any one of us in the future. Furthermore, we are all blood brothers, and therefore, how do we strengthen our filial bonds and ties, not only in the field of cultural interactions, but also in the different arenas of life. This is a pertinent matter, which I believe we all must seriously ponder over.
With the population explosion around the world, the age-old adage, “Survival of the Fittest” is in vogue again. Everyone is asking, “Who is who? Who are we? Who am I? Where do I come from? Where are my roots?” In this present age, people are re-inventing their identity on a cultural basis; people are looking for brothers with whom they share a cultural affinity. Unless we come together, realize our kinship and unite as one with our blood brethren, we will not survive; we will be left behind, sidelined. On the other hand, if we unite as true brothers ordained by blood, destined by the Lord, we will be in a position to withstand challenges and intense competition from all sides.
We will survive; we will not only survive, we will thrive together, here, on the face of the earth!
For example, even in the northeast alone, there are various groups who are demanding statehood like Kukis, Karbis, Bodos, Misings, Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation of Frontier Nagaland (ENPO), and certain groups in Tripura. If we observe these demands, what could be the solution? How could we all work together? is a thought we all have to bear in mind. What steps should we take? What measures ought we to adopt to strengthen ourselves so as to enable us to work in a true spirit of a united brotherhood for a common cause?
In this year’s edition of Chavang Kut: ‘Celebration of Brotherhood’, our Chief Guest for the first day i.e. the 30th October 2016, Mr. Conrad K. Sangma recalled his late father Mr. P.A. Sangma’s vision for a separate parliament for the Northeast Region, which could not materialize during his lifetime because MPs from the Northeast placed the interest of their respective party far more paramount than that of the region as a whole. My response was that this was bound to be so as we append our identity to different groups such as Garo, Kuki, Naga, Kachari, Bodo. However, the moment the people realize that they are one and of the same forebear i.e. Manasseh, irrespective of geographical locations or other forms of barriers then the (Late)
Pu P.A. Sangma’s vision could still become a reality.
On this day, we need to think of how we may work together and be united and connected with all our brothers not only in the northeastern part of India, but the whole of Asia. We who have come here for today’s meeting are mainly from the northeast of India, northwest Burma, and the Chittagong Hill-Tracts of Bangladesh. How are we going to enlarge our tent as the Bible says: Isaiah 54:2: Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations; spare not; lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.
This is an important question that each one of us ought to think over, because God has revealed to His chosen servants that our brothers are spread across the Continent of Asia and what should we do to bring all those ethnic groups of Manasseh as one family.
Manasseh Asia Foundation (MAF) was chosen to represent our organization. However, on second thought, if we are to really take up issues of socio-political nature and speak out against injustices and atrocities meted out by Governments, e.g. the Burmese Government, Do you not think the name may be inappropriate? Would it not be more suitable to rename the organisation as The Manasseh Integration Forum Asia (MIFA), keeping in mind the socio-political, geo-political issues that this organization will have to take up every now and then? Additionally, I would also like to propose that our Manasseh organization should have a Chairman and a Secretary, and the Vice Chairman and the Joint Secretaries should be drawn from all of the 74 ethnic groups of the Manasseh Community.
These are my humble suggestions; they are not meant to be final in any sense. We have come here to reason together; a collective decision is required for the organization to adopt.
Last year in the state of Nagaland, we witnessed the unfortunate ethnic conflagration between our brothers Yimchunger and Chang, which resulted in the unnecessary destruction of properties and bad blood between the two Manasseh groups. Had there been an organization like Manasseh Asia Foundation or one that we may choose to name, timely intervention could have been made to avert the clashes and misunderstandings could have been avoided altogether.
Hence, I implore all the members and brothers who are present here today to put forth their ideas, plans and suggestions in a free and frank manner without any reservations. We need to reflect on how we can strengthen the bond of our brotherhood; how we may function and move forward in the true spirit of brotherly love and understanding; how we should reach out to our cognate groups who are still lost? How do we convey and demonstrate our brotherhood to the world? In the meantime, we also need to be ready in all aspects as there are numerous challenges in so many fields in life. So as to be able to face all eventualities, we need to make a declaration of our brotherhood and the fact that we are one at today’s meeting, and each one of us should take it as our bounden duty to reinforce the spirit of our Manasseh brotherhood.
Therefore, kindly share whatever ideas you may have for the welfare of our brotherhood and our fledging Manasseh organization. We will all discuss together and adopt the proposals we all think is best for our common interests. Having realized that we are the descendants of the same ancestor, the question now is how the Manasseh brothers should live in unity; strategies and measures that should be adopted to actualize our political aspirations; how we can work together as one to deal with the various aspects and arenas of life.
It was this desire to be able to discuss vital issues and deliberate upon in an atmosphere far removed from the festivities of the Kut festival that today’s meeting @ the Shillong meeting was convened. With this objective in mind we have converged here to share our progressive thoughts and ideas in an open and transparent discourse; about what approach we need to adopt for our Manasseh Community or Manasseh organization, which would be good for all.
I know December is already the busiest month of the year with Christmas just around the corner. It is also that time of year when everyone is busy, with children appearing for annual exams. In spite of your busy schedule, you all have come to attend our meeting out of genuine concern for the Manasseh community. I am deeply touched and grateful. We have come here to listen to one another’s opinions, thoughts and suggestions on what would be the best approach for all of us and for the future course of action in regard to our Manasseh community.
We are brothers. It is my heartfelt desire that we put our heart and soul together, pool our thoughts and bring forth ideas which will be the best for us.
May the God Lord bless you all abundantly!!
KAKIPAH EH – CHILDREN OF MANASSEH!
(The article is a text speech by Pu PS Haokip, Chief Patron at the Manasseh Asia Foundation Conclave, delivered on 3rd Dec 2016 at Pastorate Centre, Tripura Castle road, Cleve Colony, Shillong -793003, East Khasi Hills, meghalaya, India)