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Christians In the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal
Christians are a religious minority, face the least amount of social support
Rupesh Silwal (rooproop)     Print Article 
Published 2005-12-26 14:45 (KST)   
Thousands of Christians gather at Tinkune, near the international airport, to celebrate Christmas Eve 2005.
©2005 R.Silwal
On the occasion of Christmas Eve, thousands of Christians gathered publicly in Kathmandu on Saturday. Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in world and Christians are regarded as a minority.

Democracy and religious freedom gained new ground after the 1990's. Then churches were built and the number of Christian followers increased. The national census (2001) shows Nepali Christians number 100,000, approximately, or 0.45 percent of the total population. However, Dr. Simon Pandey of the National Churches Fellowship says there are 700,000 Nepali Christians and 7,000 churches in Nepal.

Dr. Simon Pandey
©2005 R.Silwal
Pandey has accused the government of hiding the reality. He said, "The government intentionally wants to minimize the statistics of Christian followers to protect the national identity of the only Hindu Kingdom in world." Moreover, Nepali Christians face the least amount of social support.

Lhakpa Wangchuk Bhutia is an ordinary Nepali facing poverty from Taplejung, one of the remotest villages in the country. He was born into a Buddhist family and turned Christian 16 months ago. After becoming a Christian, Bhutia never went to his village. He was worried about what his relatives or friends would say about his turning to Christianity. Many neighbors consider a change in religion as tantamount to deserting the community and showing contempt for traditional culture. Socially, he has to face hurdles.

Speaking with OhmyNews, Bhutia said, "Unlike most of my friends, I do not want to hide my religion. I am Christian and will remain Christian forever." Bhutia offers no reason for turning to Christianity. He said, "It's my personal interest." Now, Bhutia is in Kathmandu and working as a security guard in one of the churches.

A pastor of an old church located in central Kathmandu, Mr. Joseph, said, "Besides legal provisions in favor, people hide their religious status for social prestige."

Lhakpa Wangchuk Bhutia
©2005 R.Silwal
Besides Hinduism or Buddhism, religious freedom has had an agonizing history in Nepal. Pastor Robert Kather is one of the oldest promoters of Christianity in Nepal. He has 50 years of experience in promoting the religion here. Pastor Robert Kather admits there is no illustrative change among the traditionalists or youngsters on the topic of Christianity in Nepal.

In Nepal, Christianity is regarded as a religion of Westerners. Nepalese living in poverty are half fed and half clad. For many Nepalese, converting means a chance to earn a better living, an opportunity to visit foreign lands and experience more prosperity. Nepali Hindus see Christianity as a foreign, "cow-eating" religion. In some cases, it is even accused of destroying traditional culture. People believe that when a Hindu becomes Christian he/she will break the caste. The caste system has personal, family, and social consequences.

Christians in Nepal regard places like Dhading, Rupandehi and Kanchanpur as their pocket locations capable of nominating representatives for the parliament, as well. Most of the villages in the locations are remote and have a low literacy rate.

There is a traditional bulwark against the growth of Christianity in Nepal. Jesuit missionaries in 18th century were the first to enter Nepal. They were on the way to Tibet and were tracing a route through the Himalayas. They established a small mission and a community of 57 Christian converts in the Nepal valley until they were banished from the kingdom.

In 1760, King Prithvi Narayan Shah (regarded as a "symbol of unity" and a ruler who is credited with the unification of Nepal) expelled Catholic Capuchin priests. Since then, the policy of the Nepali government had been to prevent Christians from entering the country and to mistreat those who managed to do so. For the first time, a Nepali pastor, Ganga Prasad Pradhan, translated an entire Bible into Nepali in the year 1914.

Christians are regarded as a religious minority. So far, discrimination and official harassment still take place and it gives strong incentives for Christians to stick together.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rupesh Silwal

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