Churches in Nepal hope for peace with justice after turmoil

Churches in Nepal hope for peace with justice after turmoil

By staff writers
1 May 2006

Churches in Nepal hope for peace with justice after turmoil

-01/05/06

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is among the church organisations which have welcomed recent efforts to restore a democratic system in Nepal, urging parties to that country's internal conflict to demonstrate a continuing commitment to justice by respecting the human rights of all people.

Last week Jesuit leader Msgr Anthony Sharma, the Catholic apostolic prefect of Nepal, wrote a letter to be read out during morning Masses at all five Catholic parishes in the country, supporting the needs of around 8,000 baptized.

He reiterated the church's neutrality in the civil conflict but pointed out that the Catholic community has been "deeply affected after seeing the horror of undue brute force unleashed by security forces on peaceful demonstrations."

Meanwhile the interdenominational United Mission to Nepal, which supports a range of development work across the country, has also steered clear of political comment ñ as it is required to do by its agreement with the government.

However, David Mcconkey of UMN said he personally participated in a demonstration in support of peace, justice and human rights earlier this month ñ alongside staff of the United Nations, donor agencies and international NGOs.

Benjamin Chan, who oversees the Baptist-based International Ministries' work in Nepal, has called for continued prayer on behalf of Nepal and its people.

Today (1 May 2006) Nepalís new Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, meets with political leaders to decide on the new cabinet to assist the Himalayan kingdom towards becoming a democratic republic.

Nearly three weeks of pro-democracy street protests in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, forced King Gyanendra to restore the country's parliament.

The king assumed power in February 2005, citing government failure in controlling the Maoists whose decade-old insurgency has resulted in the deaths of thousands. The group has declared a three-month cease-fire.

On 28 April 2006, leaders of pro-Maoist trades unions told an audience of a few thousand people in Kathmandu that the party would not settle for anything less than an a republic.

Proper elections to a constituent assembly is the ìminimumî demand of the Maoists for rejoining peaceful politics and ending the violence that has caused over 13,000 deaths since 1996.

Both the USA and the European Union have said decommissioning is a ìmustî before the Maoists take part in an election.

Meanwhile Lutheran World Federation general secretary, the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, says he hopes that agreements in dealing with the current political situation will "address the underlying grievances, which predispose Nepalese society to instability."

In Nepal, the LWF works with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups through its Department for World Service (DWS) programme.

Christianity has only really surfaced in the ancient kingdom over the past 50 years, with estimates of the number of Protestant believers in a predominantly Hindu society ranging from 100-400,000.

Proselytism remains illegal and life for church members has been tough ñ with sometimes violent opposition from both Maoists and Hindu nationalists. Hindus and Buddhists in turn complain that Christian converts demonize their faith and break up families.

In his post-Easter statement, Lutheran leader Dr Noko indicated that hope for sustainable peace and human development in Nepal could only be created through genuine and committed attention to the underlying injustices that have fed the internal conflict and political crisis in the country.

He also urged the partners of the LWF's work in the country to increase their essential support "at this critical historical moment for the people of Nepal."

In the country since 1984, the Lutheran Department for World Service Nepal primarily focuses on people who are subjected to severe discrimination, especially the Dalits (untouchables), freed Kamaiyas (former bonded labourers), the Bhutanese refugee community, and women in general.

The Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation Office for International Affairs and Human Rights has helped lead international advocacy on the issue of caste-based discrimination in Nepal and on the Bhutanese refugee question in particular.

LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of 66.2 million.

The United Mission to Nepal is a Christian INGO working exclusively in Nepal since 1954 under a series of five- year general agreements with the government, the current one expiring in 2010.

The agreement classifies UMN as a "non-political, non-sectarian, non-governmental, non-profit making humanitarian organization".

Nepal remains the worldís only constitutionally declared Hindu state, and the constitution theoretically protects religious and cultural freedom. Official sanction for Hindu nationalism and the political exclusion of other groups ended in 1990.

According to the countryís 2001 census, 80.6 percent of Nepalese are Hindu, 10.7 percent are Buddhist, 4.2 are Muslim, 3.6 percent are Kirat (an indigenous religion), 0.5 percent are Christian, and 0.4 percent are classified as belonging to other groups.


The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is among the church organisations which have welcomed recent efforts to restore a democratic system in Nepal, urging parties to that country's internal conflict to demonstrate a continuing commitment to justice by respecting the human rights of all people.

Last week Jesuit leader Msgr Anthony Sharma, the Catholic apostolic prefect of Nepal, wrote a letter to be read out during morning Masses at all five Catholic parishes in the country, supporting the needs of around 8,000 baptized.

He reiterated the church's neutrality in the civil conflict but pointed out that the Catholic community has been "deeply affected after seeing the horror of undue brute force unleashed by security forces on peaceful demonstrations."

Meanwhile the interdenominational United Mission to Nepal, which supports a range of development work across the country, has also steered clear of political comment ñ as it is required to do by its agreement with the government.

However, David Mcconkey of UMN said he personally participated in a demonstration in support of peace, justice and human rights earlier this month ñ alongside staff of the United Nations, donor agencies and international NGOs.

Benjamin Chan, who oversees the Baptist-based International Ministries' work in Nepal, has called for continued prayer on behalf of Nepal and its people.

Today (1 May 2006) Nepalís new Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, meets with political leaders to decide on the new cabinet to assist the Himalayan kingdom towards becoming a democratic republic.

Nearly three weeks of pro-democracy street protests in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, forced King Gyanendra to restore the country's parliament.

The king assumed power in February 2005, citing government failure in controlling the Maoists whose decade-old insurgency has resulted in the deaths of thousands. The group has declared a three-month cease-fire.

On 28 April 2006, leaders of pro-Maoist trades unions told an audience of a few thousand people in Kathmandu that the party would not settle for anything less than an a republic.

Proper elections to a constituent assembly is the ìminimumî demand of the Maoists for rejoining peaceful politics and ending the violence that has caused over 13,000 deaths since 1996.

Both the USA and the European Union have said decommissioning is a ìmustî before the Maoists take part in an election.

Meanwhile Lutheran World Federation general secretary, the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, says he hopes that agreements in dealing with the current political situation will "address the underlying grievances, which predispose Nepalese society to instability."

In Nepal, the LWF works with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups through its Department for World Service (DWS) programme.

Christianity has only really surfaced in the ancient kingdom over the past 50 years, with estimates of the number of Protestant believers in a predominantly Hindu society ranging from 100-400,000.

Proselytism remains illegal and life for church members has been tough ñ with sometimes violent opposition from both Maoists and Hindu nationalists. Hindus and Buddhists in turn complain that Christian converts demonize their faith and break up families.

In his post-Easter statement, Lutheran leader Dr Noko indicated that hope for sustainable peace and human development in Nepal could only be created through genuine and committed attention to the underlying injustices that have fed the internal conflict and political crisis in the country.

He also urged the partners of the LWF's work in the country to increase their essential support "at this critical historical moment for the people of Nepal."

In the country since 1984, the Lutheran Department for World Service Nepal primarily focuses on people who are subjected to severe discrimination, especially the Dalits (untouchables), freed Kamaiyas (former bonded labourers), the Bhutanese refugee community, and women in general.

The Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation Office for International Affairs and Human Rights has helped lead international advocacy on the issue of caste-based discrimination in Nepal and on the Bhutanese refugee question in particular.

LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of 66.2 million.

The United Mission to Nepal is a Christian INGO working exclusively in Nepal since 1954 under a series of five- year general agreements with the government, the current one expiring in 2010.

The agreement classifies UMN as a "non-political, non-sectarian, non-governmental, non-profit making humanitarian organization".

Nepal remains the worldís only constitutionally declared Hindu state, and the constitution theoretically protects religious and cultural freedom. Official sanction for Hindu nationalism and the political exclusion of other groups ended in 1990.

According to the countryís 2001 census, 80.6 percent of Nepalese are Hindu, 10.7 percent are Buddhist, 4.2 are Muslim, 3.6 percent are Kirat (an indigenous religion), 0.5 percent are Christian, and 0.4 percent are classified as belonging to other groups.

Keywords: nepal
Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.