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Nepal Christians Hope End Of Persecution Near As Prime Minister Meets King

May 21, 2006

(BosNewsLife)– Christians in Nepal, who reportedly endured years of persecution, spent their first Sunday, March 21, in a nation they hope will no longer be known as the “world’s only Hindu kingdom” after parliament stripped the monarch of most of his powers and said it would declare Nepal a “secular state.”

On Sunday, May 21, Nepal ’s Prime Minister G.P. Koirala met King Gyanendra for the first time since Thursday’s historic vote to discuss the upcoming reforms, which will still have to be formulated in a series of laws.

Missionaries active in Nepal told BosNewsLife they hope the “peaceful revolution” in the mountain kingdom will translate into more religious freedom. “Secularism does not guarantee full freedom of religion,” cautioned Narayan Sharma , Nepal ’s national leader of Gospel for Asia (GFA) a major mission group supporting native missionaries in Asia .

“Rather, this could create hatred and tension among various religious groups in Nepal and may harm [Christians] in a greater way,” he told BosNewsLife in a statement. “We still need to see how the government drafts the law concerning the secular state. It is sure that there will be restrictions and limitations.”


GFA President President K.P. Yohannan said his organization was waiting to see what secularism means “as far as religious freedom is concerned.” He said, “With India being so close, there is the possibility of religious fundamentalism being adopted in Nepal as it is in India today.”

The National Council of Churches of Nepal has been campaigning with allies from other faiths for democratic elections and the creation of a new constitution including guarantees of full religious freedom.


Before this week’s announced reforms, closely monitored by the international community, individual Christians and churches were attacked throughout the country by Hindu militants and government backed forces. In recent years several Christians and missionaries were imprisoned, and some church leaders were killed, human rights investigators said. Dozens of churches were reportedly closed down, as Hindu authorities are believed to fear the expansion of evangelical Christianity in Nepal .

GFA said that the changes launched this week, are seen as an answer to prayers. “To experience this historic change for this nation is truly an answer to prayers,” said Sharma. “For the last 10 years there has been no prayer meeting or worship service in our churches without specific prayer for the nation.”

Besides declaring Nepal a secular nation, the parliament, backed by massive street protests, also passed measures to slash royal allowances, tax royal income, allow court trials of royal family members in criminal cases, strip the king’s command of the army and replace the royal household with civil servants. The move came after mounting pressure on King Gyanendra to end his crackdown and re-establish a democratically elected government, who he fired last year.

King Gyanendra claimed he was forced to take absolute power as politicians failed to quell an insurgency by Maoist rebels who seek to establish a Communist-run state in a revolt that has killed over 13,000 people since 1996.


GFA and other groups hope that the government will able to settle the 10-year war with the Maoists, who have appealed to the Dalits and other lower castes for support in their efforts to unseat the king and establish a Communist state.

“For last 10 years, we have seen the Maoists rise up against the king’s absolute rule, and according to their statistics, [nearly] 14,000 people have died in the decade-long people’s war with Royal Nepal Army,” Sharma noted. The Maoists have so far refused to call for a cease fire, BosNewsLife learned Sunday, May 21.

Christian investigators have said several Christian leaders have been killed by Maoist rebels as they are often in the cross fire. Despite harsh conditions, the church in Nepal has grown steadily from about 50 known believers in 1960 to roughly half a million Christians, according to church estimates. Evangelical Christians are now almost two percent of the over 28-million strong population despite difficulties, observers say.


GFA Radio said it is broadcasting the Gospel on stations across the country, including the government’s Radio Nepal , as part of efforts to bring peace and stability to the country. “We are seeing a vast change in the attitude by the government toward Christians,” he Sharma claimed.

“We believe our radio programs are bringing the right message at the right time to honor and propagate the love of Christ.”