Washington (BWA)--Wati Aier, principal of the Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS) in Dimapur in the Northeast Indian state of Nagaland, is the recipient of the 2011 Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
The award is given annually to an individual who has engaged in significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights.
Aier is being recognized for his work in helping to broker the signing of a peace accord between three nationalist groups in Nagaland in September 2010.
For decades, the three groups in Nagaland have been in conflict with each other and with the Indian government over issues of autonomy and sovereignty for Nagaland state and the Naga people. Between 1992 and 2009, more than 2,330 insurgency related fatalities have been recorded in Nagaland. As a result of the longstanding disputes, which date back more than 50 years, exceptionally tight security has been imposed on the state by the Indian government, with multiple checkpoints scattered throughout the state. International visitors are required to obtain special permits to enter and move around Nagaland.
Aier, founder of OTS in 1991, was convener of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), which comprised several organizations, including Baptist groups. He spent almost 20 years trying to bring the warring groups to the negotiating table. The FNR, formed in 2008, convened more than 60 meetings of the various Naga factions in the peace process.
"Over the years Wati has worked tirelessly, often against overwhelming odds, to keep a process alive that would allow deeply conflicted Naga parties to negotiate their bitter differences sufficient to extinguish the flames of violence," said Ken Sehested, co-pastor of the Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina, in the United States, and who has known Aier since 1993.
Aier, a former vice president of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, helped to found a liberal arts junior college program for Karen refugees from Myanmar in the Mae Le refugee camp in Thailand, near the border with Myanmar. He also helped to launch the Karen Bible School in the same camp where OTS graduates are the main teachers.
He previously served as a member of the BWA Commission on Freedom and Justice and the Academic and Theological Education Workgroup. He now serves on the BWA Commission on Peace and on the BWA Congress Committee.
The Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award is given out each year during the BWA Annual Gathering, which will be held this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from July 4-9. Previous recipients include Gustavo Parajon from Nicaragua, Joao and Nora Matwawana from Angola, Dennis Datta from Bangladesh, and Leena Lavanya from India.