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The Oxford Encyclopaedia of South Asian Christianity
Benjamin Rai

Zairema (b. Champhai, Mizoram, India, 1917; d. Zarkawt, Mizoram, 17 December 2008) 

After completing his school education from the Government High School, Shillong, Zairema passed his matriculation in 1936. He was the first Mizo to receive a B.Sc. degree with a first class from Cotton College, Guwahati under Calcutta University. Then he went to Serampore College for pursuing theological education and passed Bachelor of Divinity (BD) with a first division in 1945. A year later, he was ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Mizoram (then known as Lushai Hills). Along with the pastoral responsibilities of the church, he served as the assistant headmaster of the Government High School at Aizawl, Mizoram, from 1948 to 1954. He was then made education secretary of the Mizo Synod till 1959. Subsequently, he was sent as a missionary to the Silchar Mission Field in Assam where he served till 1969. It was a very difficult time for the Mizo community as many Mizo youth joined the insurgent movement against the Indian Government, even taking up arms, under the banner of the Mizo National Front in 1965.

The immediate apparent cause of the insurgency was the way in which the Indian Government handled the famine and food shortage during the bamboo flowering. Zairema tried to reason with the Mizo National Front leaders to give up arms. The Assam State Government suspected Zairema as a sympathizer of the rebel leaders and arrested him soon after he became the senior executive secretary of the Mizo Presbyterian Synod. He was soon released as the government found no basis for arresting him.

Along with his responsibility in the church, he was the chief Bible translator under the Bible Society of India from 1969 till 1996. Apart from Bible translations, he wrote commentaries on the gospels of Mark and John in Mizo. He also wrote several books and articles in Mizo that are used in schools and colleges as textbooks and references.

For his contribution to the church, he was conferred an honorary Doctorate of Divinity (Honoris Causa) by the Senate of Serampore College in 1988; and for his contribution to education and society, he was conferred a D.Litt by the North Eastern Hill University in 1991. He is the first church leader to be so honoured by a secular university.

benjamin rai


Obituary’, available at (Accessed on 4 January 2010).