Gospel Going Forth Despite Government Crackdown on Christians, Churches
Gospel for Asia
2/27/08 BHUTAN (ANS) — Gospel for Asia missionary Benita Viswanathan was arrested and jailed for preaching the Gospel in Bhutan in 2006. In 2007, she was appointed village head, or tshokpa.
Benita has been trusted with the authority to settle local disputes. She also represents the villagers’ concerns before the government on issues such as education, health and development. Because of her new role, Benita is more respected in the village and is also able to share the Gospel with much more ease.
Benita’s situation did not look so positive in June 2006. The Bhutanese government was cracking down on Christianity, closing churches and threatening to tear them down and putting Christians like Benita in jail. The authorities did not view these actions as persecution of the Christian church. Rather, they viewed them as an effort to uphold the law that makes it illegal to attempt to convert anyone away from Buddhism, the country’s official religion.
Christians in Bhutan are not allowed to meet in their church buildings right now. Many congregations are gathering in alternative locations, and people are still coming to Christ.
Although the government threatened to tear down the church buildings, they are all still standing. No new churches are allowed to be constructed, however.
In southeastern Bhutan, GFA missionaries Dileshwar and Meenuka Subba are still sharing the Gospel and seeing many lives changed as a result. They have found that GFA’s Film Ministry is playing a vital role in helping them reach this area of Bhutan. In just one month, 12 people received Jesus as their Savior after seeing the film. These new Christians are regularly meeting for worship and prayer.
The situation in Bhutan is expected to improve. Residents of this tiny, remote and impoverished country are transitioning from a monarchy to a democratic form of government.
Benita, Dileshwar and Vinmugil ask for continued prayer for the country. They ask that you pray for continued favor with the government-especially the first legislators who will soon be elected by the people. Also pray that the Christians would be allowed back into their churches and that the laws against sharing one’s faith would be overturned.