Rescuing and serving persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

8/18/11 Nepal (CDN) — Defying pouring rain and flooded streets, over two dozen people have gathered faithfully at the Putalisadak Church in the heart of capital city Kathmandu for the regular Thursday evening Bible study class, bringing a smile of satisfaction on the face of Pastor Dev Kumar Chetri.
 
The smile fades, however, when he talks about the problems that Nepal’s second-oldest church has faced due to government discrimination. Hundreds of other churches scattered through the former Hindu kingdom have faced the same problem.
 

 
“As per the old laws, churches were not allowed to register as religious institutions,” said Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, a Protestant pastor. “They functioned either as Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] or personal properties. In 2006, when Parliament formally declared Nepal secular, we thought it would change and churches would be recognized as religious institutions.”
 
Five years later, however, discrimination against Christians continues, Gahatraj said.
 
“We have not even been mentioned in the new policies and programs of the government proposed in Parliament this year,” he said.
 

 
“When our congregation started growing, in 2006 we started building a bigger hall to accommodate them,” said Pastor Samuel Karthak. “But it was opposed by a neighbor, who went to court. The dispute went up to the Supreme Court before it was resolved. We would have felt so much more secure if the churches had been recognized as religious institutions. However, we are still regarded as second-class citizens, and churches as places that exist only to convert people. We still don’t have a voice.”
 
Stung by government apathy, Christians this month joined forces with other excluded religious communities like Buddhists and Muslims to begin a campaign seeking an end to religious discrimination.
 

 
The campaigners are demanding that the government amend the draft of a new penal code that has triggered widespread controversy and condemnation over the inclusion of clauses that make conversions a punishable offense. Instead, they are asking for a new Religion Act as well as Religion Commission to resolve religious disputes.

For the first time, Christians and other religious minorities are seeking proportional representation in all state organs such as the army, judiciary and civil service on the basis of population. Though Nepal’s new Parliament has 601 seats with the provision that the prime minister should nominate representatives from unrepresented communities, the stipulation has been virtually ignored. Most ignored have been Christians.

[Full Story]