Christians in Nepal seek more religious freedom

Christians in Nepal seek more religious freedom

By staff writers
3 May 2006

Christians in Nepal seek more religious freedom

-03/05/06

Christians in Nepal have held a thanksgiving service in Kathmandu following steps towards the restoration of democracy to the Himalayan kingdom, after several weeks of mass public demonstrations.

However church leaders have also said that, in addition to the wider civic concerns for justice in society, they want the introduction of full freedom of religion.

And the small ecumenical and inter-religious bodies inside the country are continuing to strive for the continuation of a meaningful peace process.

"We have to thank God for these political changes," Pastor Philip Gajmer, coordinator of the Valley Christian Council, told the Geneva-based Ecumenical News International this week.

But he added, "We cannot just rejoice and relax. We need to pray and work for full religious freedom."

The constitution of Nepal prohibits religious conversion and makes conversion illegal and punishable by law.

In addition, Christians face difficulties and discrimination in getting churches and Christian organizations officially registered with the government.

There are also problems for Christians in finding a place to bury their dead, since no land has been allocated by the government for this purpose.

Moreover, there are instances where Christian families have been forced by the other villagers to leave their homes and neighbourhoods.

An expert told Ekklesia today that after the new constitution in 1990, the church exploded from some 30,000 members to several hundred thousand today. Precise estimates vary.

Nepal has always been a Hindu kingdom and today remains the only officially Hindu country in the world.

The nation claims to be the birth place of Buddha and Hindus and Buddhists have lived together peaceably. Islam is the third major religion. It has also existed for centuries and has been accepted by the state.

A large section of the population, called the nationalities, follow different religious practices often called animistic.

Historically, Nepal has not seen a great deal of conflict between various religious communities, though from time to time there have been few instances of communal tension, especially between the Hindus and Muslims.

Traditionally, the churches in Nepal have given emphasis only to propagating the numerical growth of Christians and have remained almost isolated from the social, political and national issues.

A greater social and inter-religious consciousness is developing among newer church leaders and key figures such as Tirtha Thapa, director of Human Development and Community Services (HDCS), and Dr K.B. Rokaya, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Nepal (NCCN) and a leaders of Christian Efforts for Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation (CEPJAR).

Realizing the importance of working together with other religious communities in Nepal, CEPJAR joined hands in 2005 with leaders of other religious communities to make united efforts to contribute to a peace building process.

The outcome was the formation of Inter-Religious Peace Committee of Nepal (IRPCN) in July-August last year.

Leaders from Hindu. Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Bahai and other religious communities are represented in the peace organisation.

Within a short period IPCN has made significant contribution to the peace process, say its leaders. The exercise has given greater recognition to Christians in Nepal and is a significant development in the life of the church there.

[Also on Ekklesia: Churches in Nepal hope for peace with justice after turmoil 01/05/06; Asian churches to challenge violence against children]


Christians in Nepal have held a thanksgiving service in Kathmandu following steps towards the restoration of democracy to the Himalayan kingdom, after several weeks of mass public demonstrations.

However church leaders have also said that, in addition to the wider civic concerns for justice in society, they want the introduction of full freedom of religion.

And the small ecumenical and inter-religious bodies inside the country are continuing to strive for the continuation of a meaningful peace process.

"We have to thank God for these political changes," Pastor Philip Gajmer, coordinator of the Valley Christian Council, told the Geneva-based Ecumenical News International this week.

But he added, "We cannot just rejoice and relax. We need to pray and work for full religious freedom."

The constitution of Nepal prohibits religious conversion and makes conversion illegal and punishable by law.

In addition, Christians face difficulties and discrimination in getting churches and Christian organizations officially registered with the government.

There are also problems for Christians in finding a place to bury their dead, since no land has been allocated by the government for this purpose.

Moreover, there are instances where Christian families have been forced by the other villagers to leave their homes and neighbourhoods.

An expert told Ekklesia today that after the new constitution in 1990, the church exploded from some 30,000 members to several hundred thousand today. Precise estimates vary.

Nepal has always been a Hindu kingdom and today remains the only officially Hindu country in the world.

The nation claims to be the birth place of Buddha and Hindus and Buddhists have lived together peaceably. Islam is the third major religion. It has also existed for centuries and has been accepted by the state.

A large section of the population, called the nationalities, follow different religious practices often called animistic.

Historically, Nepal has not seen a great deal of conflict between various religious communities, though from time to time there have been few instances of communal tension, especially between the Hindus and Muslims.

Traditionally, the churches in Nepal have given emphasis only to propagating the numerical growth of Christians and have remained almost isolated from the social, political and national issues.

A greater social and inter-religious consciousness is developing among newer church leaders and key figures such as Tirtha Thapa, director of Human Development and Community Services (HDCS), and Dr K.B. Rokaya, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Nepal (NCCN) and a leaders of Christian Efforts for Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation (CEPJAR).

Realizing the importance of working together with other religious communities in Nepal, CEPJAR joined hands in 2005 with leaders of other religious communities to make united efforts to contribute to a peace building process.

The outcome was the formation of Inter-Religious Peace Committee of Nepal (IRPCN) in July-August last year.

Leaders from Hindu. Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Bahai and other religious communities are represented in the peace organisation.

Within a short period IPCN has made significant contribution to the peace process, say its leaders. The exercise has given greater recognition to Christians in Nepal and is a significant development in the life of the church there.

[Also on Ekklesia: Churches in Nepal hope for peace with justice after turmoil 01/05/06; Asian churches to challenge violence against children]

Keywords: gifts for nepal | nepal
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