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Christians in Bhutan Jittery Over Anti-Conversion Law

ICC Note: Christians could receive prison sentences for evangelizing

By Success K Uchime

7/27/10 Bhutan (AllVoices) – The Christian minorities in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, a Buddhist populated country located in the South Asia are worried over the proposal by the government to introduce the anti-conversion law.

This indication is contained in a prayer report released by the Prayer Communications team of Open Doors, an organization serving persecuted Christians worldwide, adding that the amendment bill would punish proselytizing that ‘uses coercion or other forms of inducement’.

It noted that Christians are afraid that the bill is so vaguely worded that fundamentalists could use it to jail them for living out the basic Christian principles of worship and caring for the needs of others.

“There was always a virtual anti-conversion law in place, but now it is on paper too. Seemingly it is aimed at controlling the growth of Christianity. Sources expect the legislation may be passed during the next session of Parliament, after the National Assembly deliberates on it in the winter session. If convicted, Christians would receive a one-to-three-year prison sentence,” the report said.

It noted that Bhutan with a population of 683,000 people has over 75 per cent of them as Buddhist, while there are only around 6,000 Christians, representing about 2% ofthe population adding that the church is growing gradually through word-of-mouth and the testimonies of those who have received healing from sickness.

The report stated: “Public preaching is tacitly if not legally forbidden. The country does not have a church building or a registered Christian institution. The Bible, however, has been translated into the national language, Dzongkha, as well as into Nepali.”

It observed that two years ago Bhutan held its first ever democratic elections, following more than 100 years of absolute monarchy, and that religious freedom is slowly increasing – although some see the latest development as an attempt by the government to halt that trend.

“Please pray that the proposed anti-conversion legislation would not pass through Parliament and that it would not be used against Christians to stop them practicing their faith. Pray also that God will pour out His Spirit across the country and put an end to the spiritual oppression that many Bhutanese are under,” the report urged.

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