Will a lack of official recognition by the Nepalese government expose Christians to more hardships?
3/8/2012 Nepal (Mission Network News) – A bombing in Nepal’s capital city highlights the nation’s instability and tension as a deadline nears.
Political infighting and a stalled drafting of the country’s constitution have allowed militant Hindu groups time to push for the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion. They’re trying to gain traction for a referendum to decide if Nepal should remain secular.
Negotiations over contentious issues–including judiciary reform and state restructuring–remain unresolved.
Danny Punnose with Gospel For Asia says the reaction to the pace of change in Nepal is not unlike what has been happening in neighboring Sri Lanka and India. “Any time the government is trying to figure things out for the country–the stability of the country and constitutional things, you are going to find that it is a long, drawn-out process. These kinds of things where you have bombs going off happen almost every single day.”
The seemingly stalled constitution draft doesn’t mean nothing is happening. In fact, it could be quite the opposite. “They are trying to take time to really figure things out,” says Punnose. It’s not every day that a nation reforms itself. However, there have been concerns over how the re-drafted penal code could be problematic for outreach. While GFA is aware of the changes, Punnose notes that “the church at large there will not be as affected because you have so many believers there. And just like any other religious faith, they have some acknowledgement that they’re part of the country and they’re part of the society.”
A 2007 interim constitution in Nepal still governs the country. The assembly–tasked in 2007 to draft a new constitution by May 2010–has pushed back the deadline several times with the latest one being May 2012.
For believers, the chaos promises challenge in the days ahead. “It does make it harder to be able to do ministry just because there’s a lot of fear and a lot of tension throughout the entire country. So the call is for us to just pray and ask God to give us wisdom.”
Will a lack of official recognition by the state expose Christians to more trouble? That depends on who you talk to. Punnose tells the people they help: “Whether the constitution is amended or not amended, or delayed, I think more and more people will recognize that the church at large is genuinely the hands and feet of the Lord doing ministry to the orphans and poor and those that are downtrodden.”
In some places, because Christians bring schools, medical care, water wells and other life-sustaining help, opinions change. Punnose notes that GFA teams have seen a lot of acceptance. “When you see the hands-on helping the poor, what you find is that the church is never looked at as an outside element. Part of the country may see it as a benefit; they like Christians because they know they’re the only ones who actually care for the people that cannot be cared for by the rest of the country.”