In April, the world watched as a massive earthquake in Nepal killed more than 9,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Recovering from this recent disaster, however, is not the only struggle this country faces.
Around 1 million Christians live in this nation of 28 million. The growing church now faces increased persecution and their religious freedom is at risk.
After nine years with an interim government, Nepal is now just days away from the finalization of a new constitution. A group of political leaders, the Constitutional Assembly, rushed the draft through while most people's attention was on the reconstruction efforts. This rough draft, submitted to the public on June 31, has raised concerns with the Christian minority in the majority Hindu nation and has church leaders calling for action from the international community.
As the collective Body of Christ, those of us in the Western church should be concerned about what their Nepali brothers and sisters are facing. The Bible tells us as one Body “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). While the situation in Nepal may not affect the daily lives of Christians in the West, as followers of Christ, it should affect our hearts and prayers for the people of Nepal.
In 2006, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the communist Maoists and the government of Nepal ended the 10-year civil war. Nepal became a secular nation, no longer the world’s only Hindu Kingdom, and the lack of government brought new freedom to groups previously restricted in meeting together and sharing their faith.
Nepali Christian leaders had been working with the government on changes in the constitution that would bring full freedom of religion to Nepal. They were encouraged with progress until leaders from the major political parties met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July.
As the collective Body of Christ, those of us in the Western church should be concerned about what their Nepali brothers and sisters are facing.
John*, an American Christian who has served in Nepal since before the Peace Agreement, says, “When they returned, the promises of a secular nation and a nation that upheld religious freedom quickly evaporated. Instead of religion freedom, they have written in increased restrictions.”
Neighboring India has seen political changes in the last year since the new Hindu government, led by Modi, came to power in May 2014. Reports have been streaming out of India in the past year detailing increased persecution, especially for converts from Hindu backgrounds.
According to Open Doors, who publishes the annual World Watch List that ranks the 50 countries “where Christians face the most persecution,” a spike in persecution has raised India’s ranking from 28th in 2014 to 21st in 2015.
After Nepali leaders met with Indian leaders, the draft of the constitution was released with a clause that has some Nepali Christians worried about the future of religious freedoms in the country. The clause states that “No one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb/jeopardize the religion of others, and such acts/activities shall be punishable by law.”
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/religious-freedom-crisis-no-one-talking-about#VVMleqdFBxpBUHtJ.99
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon