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1/28/11 Nepal (AFP)  — Nepal’s Christian community on Friday threatened to parade its dead outside the parliament building in a row over burial grounds in the capital, Kathmandu.

Christians in Kathmandu used to bury their dead in a forest next to the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath, where hundreds of Nepalese are cremated every week on the banks of the holy Baghmati river.

But temple authorities ruled last month that Christian burials should no longer be permitted in the forest, saying it was sacred Hindu land.

Now, a committee representing Nepal’s Christians says those who live in the overcrowded capital have nowhere to bury their dead, and have been forced to cremate them instead.

“We have been asking the government to provide an alternative burial ground for Christians living in Kathmandu for the last two years, with no success,” the committee’s general secretary C.B. Gahatraj told AFP.

“We are having a meeting with representatives of the main political parties on Sunday. If they don’t address our demands, we will protest in front of the Constituent Assembly (parliament) building with the unburied corpses.”

It is not known exactly how many Christians live in majority-Hindu Nepal. Faith leaders put the number at 1.5 million, but a 2007 survey found there were around 500,000, out of a total population of 27 million.

The first church was established by missionaries from Darjeeling in 1952 and the number of Christians grew rapidly after that date as the country opened up to foreign influences.

They were subject to persecution and sometimes imprisoned under former king Mahendra, who seized power from the government in 1960 and imposed direct rule that lasted for 30 years.

Human rights campaigners say Nepal’s religious minorities have continued to face discrimination even after the country’s 2008 transformation from Hindu monarchy to secular democracy.

“The lack of proper burial site for Christians reflects the discrimination faced by religious minorities,” said K.B. Rokaya, a Christian member of the National Human Rights Commission.

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