Kohima, Feb. 13: There has been a cry for reformation in Naga churches as corruption has gradually crept into them.
However, the powerful Nagaland Baptist Church Council, which has completed 65 years of its existence, has distanced itself from the charges.
NBCC general secretary Rev. L. Anjo Keikung did not refute corruption charges in Naga churches but defended his organisation. “Only God will know,” he said.
In Kohima and Dimapur, there are hundreds of churches of different denominations and the council did not rule out corruption by some individuals in the name of the church.
Kohima town alone has over 100 churches, around 45 with the Baptist church alone, followed by Nagaland Christian Revival Church, Catholic, Pentecostal, Seven Days Adventist, Baptist Revival Church, Assembly of God and many more.
There are also a couple of individual independent churches in Kohima and Dimapur, which were allegedly making money at the cost of believers. “I cannot comment on an individual church. How can we judge others?” the Baptist clergyman asked.
He said there could be some reasons for establishing individual churches.
Anjo did not rule out some so-called God’s men and clergymen making easy money out of the churches. However, he also said the new churches were established because of the growing Christian population.
But many churches have become breeding centres for corruption and making easy money.
Nagaland has over 40 Bible colleges and every year hundreds of students graduate from these institutions and some of the graduates even preferred to have their own independent churches.
Naga organisations have criticised opening of so many Bible colleges in the state.
Establishing new churches has also heavily taxed the common people and that construction of churches has become a matter of prestige for church organisations in Nagaland. Crores of rupees are spent on construction of these churches.
Apart from monthly tithes churches also collect money in different forms from the people. It even deducts certain percentage of money from the government employees like in the case of church construction and conventions.
But the general secretary of the church council said there was no directive from the apex Baptist church organisation to go for fund drives and other collections for the welfare of the church.
He said church organisations affiliated to the council took their own decision and that the council was not responsible for collection of funds. “The council cannot be blamed as the churches take their own decision. They are all autonomous,” Anjo said.
He underscored the need to create awareness among the churches so that the burden of the people is reduced.
Knowing that churches were making huge money, a couple of years back, Naga militants had even served a demand note to a certain church in Kohima. According to sources, churches in Kohima could collect even upto Rs 20 lakh on Sunday service offerings.
Anjo said Ao Baptist Arogo is constructing a new church in Kohima without collection from the people but only through donation.
He appreciated the Ao Baptist church for its initiative so as not to burden the common people. He urged church organisations to generate revenue through various means and not only depend on the people.
He agreed that there was change of faith even among churches because of the increasing burden on the people.