The six remarkable students in our 2019-20 class of International Peacemaking Program fellows will spend a year at Hartford Seminary studying mediation, interfaith dialogue and public speaking while earning a Graduate Certificate. They come from different religions, backgrounds, and parts of the world, but they are all interested in fostering peace.
Q. If you had to choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be? And how will you use this trait in the IPP at Hartford Seminary?
A. Sympathetic. My personality allows me to have compassion and love toward those who need assistance. I am motivated to build a bridge to those seeking the truth and living in isolation because of past animosity and injustices in life. This will not be the end of my pursuit of knowledge and education, as I long to be prepared and equipped to make every effort in interreligious engagement.
Q. Why did you choose to apply for Hartford Seminary’s IPP?
A. I grew up in India, which is diverse religiously and culturally. Hindus are the majority, and Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs are the minorities in my country. Undoubtedly, conflicts, unrest, tensions, and fears have emerged, presently and formerly, in the name of religion. Peace is also eroded by social stigmas, marginal living, and general insecurity of day-to-day life. As a participant in the International Peacemaking Program, I have belief and confidence that Hartford Seminary will help me develop the leadership to navigate this complex situation in India.
Q. Who inspires you the most? And how will you reflect this person during your time in the IPP?
The Rev. Dr. Packiam T. Samuel, Director at Henry Martyn Institute: International Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations, and Reconciliation, Hyderabad, India. Dr. Packiam was my professor when I was studying for my Master of Theology (Islam) at Serampore College in Hyderabad. He has researched and practiced the development of a community living in harmony. I always had cherished memories of him because he began me on my life’s journey away from orthodox sectarian Christianity and towards intra-religious dialogue.
Q. Where are you from and where did you go to school before Hartford Seminary? Is there an important memory/event in your childhood that led to your interest in peacemaking?
A. I am from North-East India, and belong to the Ao-Naga tribe, Protestant Orthodox Christian in the Mokokchung District, Nagaland State. I had gone to school at my home, Mokokchung Town, and then I pursued a Bachelor of Divinity at Clark Theological College, Nagaland. I spent one year working as a Missionary at Indu-Bhutan. In the consecutive year of 2016, I returned to study for a Master of Theology in the discipline of Religion (Islam) at the Senate of Serampore College (University), Hyderabad.
I have tons of memories of rivalries and conflicts among our people in my childhood days. There were guns fired and fights between the two insurgency groups from the Land of Nagaland because of the leadership catastrophe and dictatorship in the administration. As a result, I have always reflected in my mind and soul the need for reconciliation to alleviate long-standing prejudices
Q. When you have free time, how do you spend it?
A. When it’s the weekend or sabbatical, I feel full relaxation from the stress of studying. Here is a list of what I like to do: being adventurous, hiking, shopping, visiting Starbucks coffee shop, riding on a motorcycle, listening to hard rock-contemporary music, and watching action/romantic movies.
Q. Where do you see yourself going after your year at Hartford Seminary?
A. My dedication and compassion are to foster strong relationships in the community to dissolve the barriers between ideological groups. I’ve been wanting to become a mediator and to demonstrate that diversity – be it social, political or religious – is a beautiful life experience. My core aspiration and dream is to promote peacebuilding through interfaith dialogue, workshops, and implementing education at religious institutions that work to mend the gap among the many faiths in India.