A senior church leader in Hindu-majority Nepal will serve on a committee to monitor a ceasefire hammered out with Maoist rebels, part of the Himalayan nation's progress to peace and full democracy ñ writes Anto Akkara for Ecumenical News International.
Kalai Bahadur Rokaya, founding general secretary of the National Christian Council of Nepal is on the 31-member Ceasefire Code of Conduct National Monitoring Committee headed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.
The group was set up following the 16 June 2006 direct peace talks between Maoist leaders and the government led by the Nepalese prime minister.
After that exchange, Maoist rebels agreed to join the government, which concurred with the dissolution of the current parliament and the holding of elections for a constituent assembly ñ one that will now draft a new constitution to convert the Hindu monarchy into a secular republic.
"This is a recognition for the National Christian Council of Nepal as we have always stood for peaceful resolution of the [Maoist] conflict," Rokaya told ENI from his Katmandu office.
Despite a ban on conversions, Christianity has flourished in Nepal especially in the post-1990 period when increased democracy was introduced in the Hindu kingdom. Christians now number more than 700,000 among the 25 million people of Nepal.
More importantly, Rokaya pointed out that the Christians are "happy as the peace process and the transition from Hindu monarchy to full democracy are progressing smoothly".
More than 13,000 people, including Maoists, security force members and civilians, have been killed in the decade-long Maoist insurgency that engulfed impoverished Nepal - one of the poorest nations in the world.
Nepal King Gyanendra was forced to swear in a new interim democratic government led by Prime Minister Koirala in April following massive democracy protests in the country situated on the foothills of the Himalaya mountains.
An indefinite truce with the Maoists and the lifting of a ban on the group that was accused by the government of carrying out acts of terrorism followed the reinstated national parliament adopting, on 18 May 2006, a resolution accepting the scrapping of the Hindu monarchy and the declaring of Nepal a secular state.
With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christians in Nepal seek more religious freedom 03/05/06; Churches in Nepal hope for peace with justice after turmoil; Fair trade clothes Many of the products help to supplement the subsistence income of small farmers in Nepal; Millions of world's poorest workers face new year misery; Asian churches to challenge violence against children; Asian Christian Theologies : Vol 1. South Asia]