Heavenly Citizenship

A Concept for Union and an Identity Marker for Mizo Christians

  • Marina Ngursangzeli Behera Oxford Centre for Mission Studies


Paul, as it is well known, was a citizen of the Roman Empire and he wrote these words about citizenship to a young congregation in a Hellenistic city. The Greek word in Philippians 3:20 he uses here is translated differently as “conservation” (KJV), as “home” and as “citizenship” in the New American Standard (NAS) translation. So, Christian citizenship is in heaven - not on earth. It is from there Christians expect their Lord and savior to come. Yet, while living on earth and waiting until He comes and while being part of the larger human community each and every one is a member of political unit, a nation or a state or a tribe.

The knowledge of the heavenly citizenship gives Christians an indication where to hope for true citizenship and gives at the same time a clear indication to distinguish between “heavenly” affairs and their allegiance to worldly powers on earth.

During the initial period of the history of Christianity in Mizoram in order to differentiate one’s new identity was the conviction and the declaration that one is now Pathian mi(God’s people) and vanram mi(heavenly citizen). This significant concept and understanding of what it means for the Mizo to be Christian is reflected prominently in Mizo indigenous hymns and gospel songs as well as in the preaching of the Gospel, where it is declared that one is no longer a citizen of this “earthly world” (he lei ram mi), but of the “heavenly world” (van ram mi).

This paper attempts to highlight the significance of the concept of heavenly citizenship as an identity marker in the construction of an identity and in fostering a union, sense of being a people – Mizo – a homogenous political unit as a reaction to imposed foreign British rule and the western missionaries in the later part of the 19thcentury. While the focus of the paper is on the concept of “heavenly citizenship” the Mizo’s encounter with the British colonial ruler and Christianity will be highlighted in order to place the development of the concept in its historical contexts for a better understanding.

Keywords: Mizo, Christianity, Union, Identity, British colonialism

How to Cite
NGURSANGZELI BEHERA, Marina. Heavenly Citizenship. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai Theologia Orthodoxa, [S.l.], v. 63, n. 2, p. 75-90, dec. 2018. ISSN 2065-9474. Available at: <http://journals.orth.ro/index.php/subbto/article/view/163>. Date accessed: 02 apr. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.24193/subbto.2018.2.06.
Historical Theology