The situation for Christians in Nepal is playing out like a tug-of-war right now. A step may be taken to protect believers and religious freedom in the Hindu-majority nation, and then Hindu extremists or local officials lash out.
C.B. Gahatraj, General Secretary of the Federation of National Christians in Nepal (FNCN), met with ministry partner Christian Aid Mission last week to discuss the current state for Nepali believers.
Earlier in 2016, Nepal’s government scrapped Christmas as a national holiday. Nepali Christians objected to the move since it would be significantly harder for Christian workers to observe the holiday and celebrate with loved ones. Gahatraj shared through a translator that there had been a protest in the streets. Then the FNCN approached Nepal’s Prime Minister and lobbied for Christmas to be reinstated.
Gahatraj explains, “In order to happen, this Christmas holiday in Nepal, we went to political leaders, party leaders and officials. The prime minister, we met with them. We had several meetings with the government officials as well.
“They started saying, ‘Okay, we will grant the Christmas holiday.’ The next day, they gave a press conference and the Nepal government granted for one time a Christmas holiday.”
Despite 2016’s yuletide victory, Nepali believers still encounter hostility within society. Their Hindu neighbors will, in some cases, prevent Christians from using their burial grounds, and bar them from speaking about the Gospel.
Nepal was declared a secular state in 2007, and in 2015 the nation enacted a new constitution that allowed for freedom of religion. However, in practice at the local level, it’s not that easy, says Gahatraj.
“They’re targeting Christians in Nepal, they’re also targeting missionaries from other countries in Nepal. Christian organizations…are planning to close some of their offices. Also, the government of Nepal is discussing about some NGOs regarding pending the case to renew some Christian organizations. It is pending and they are discussing, but they are not renewing Christian organizations in Nepal.”
Ultimately, it’s the Nepali Christians who become the collateral damage when Christian organizations are forced to pull out of the country.
“It certainly helps when foreign donors partner, like Christian Aid Mission and others, in order to solve the issue.”
One thing that can’t be stopped? The impact of a spreading and faithful Church in Nepal. “Christians in Nepal are continually preaching the Gospel and planting churches, regardless of the persecution from the local people.”
Please pray for Nepali Christians’ Hindu neighbors to have hearts softened to the Gospel. Pray for a spiritual revival in Nepal, and that believers would maintain a faithful witness to Jesus Christ.
Gahatraj adds, “Another prayer Christians from all over the world can pray is right now, the government of Nepal is sending police officers to churches, individuals, and they’re investigating churches and leaders, so they are harassing. Christians from all over the world can pray that this kind of behavior must be stopped.”