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Signs of Greater Religious Freedom in Bhutan?

10/25/2011 Bhutan (MNN) - Over the last ten years, Southern Baptists in particular have been praying for the nation of Bhutan, which comes in at #14 on the Open Doors World Watch List for the nations with the worst persecution toward Christians.

Although the nation remains extremely oppressive compared to free nations, International Mission Board reports that prayers over the last decade have clearly been answered.

In 2001, Baptists committed their National Day of Prayer and Fasting for the World and Evangelization to Bhutan, the only country recognized as a Tibetan Buddhist Kingdom. Ten years later, one Bhutanese pastor reports, "The prayers are working."

In the mid-1990s, Bhutan's government banned Christianity. They felt it could be a divisive religion if it grew too strong. It was against the law to "coerce anyone to believe differently."

The latter has not altogether changed. Christians are still not allowed to "proselytize" or partake in any festivity or holiday that is not Buddhist.

But headway has been made on the religious freedom horizon. "We are allowed to have faith in Jesus now," says the same pastor, who was exiled from Bhutan years ago for sharing Christ. The man still helps train others in Bhutan to plant churches, and the churches are growing.

Part of this growth is due to the introduction of New Testament translations in three more languages in the last ten years. "I'm fairly good at English. Yet, there is nothing like reading [the Scriptures] in your own language. Somehow, the Bible and what it's saying becomes more meaningful," says the pastor. "People tell me they understand it now because it's speaking to them."

The churches still face persecution. For some, every time they meet, the power and water supplies are cut off in the homes. When the village has light, the home hosting church has none. They still have to be very careful with whom they share the Truth.


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