Eight Christians were arrested last year for distributing a book of Bible stories to Christian schoolchildren, and accused of attempting to convert non-Christian pupils. Under a clause introduced into Nepal’s constitution in 2015, it is illegal to attempt to convert someone to another religion. Nepal, previously a Hindu kingdom, was declared a secular republic in 2008, but the country is majority Hindu and extremist groups are violently campaigning for the country to officially become a Hindu nation again. The church in Nepal has grown rapidly since the 1950s when Western missionaries first arrived in the country, but Christians remain a tiny minority. Many are poor and are victims of discrimination, marginalisation and sometimes violent attack.
The move towards secularism has disproportionately affected Christians; Christmas was banned as a public holiday last year, despite the fact that the government recognises 80 festivities for Hinduism and other faiths. Internet restrictions, expanded in 2015, have been used by authorities to block websites on a wide variety of pretexts; Christian websites are believed to be one the main targets of the legislation.
The country is vulnerable to earthquakes and more than 8,000 people died as a result of major earthquakes in 2015. The process to repair the damage has been slow and Christians have been overlooked in aid distribution. The government has also introduced new regulations requiring non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to get specific approval for individual projects, which have also hampered the provision of external help to those believers who have lost their homes. Nepalese Christians are concerned that the restrictions will paralyse their ministry activities, whether or not they are actively sharing the Gospel.
Pray that Nepal’s parliament will change the law, so that Christians will be free to share their faith without risk of prosecution. Give thanks that the Church is growing despite believers facing discrimination and violence; ask that they will know the Holy Spirit as their Comforter (John 14:26). Pray that the plans of Hindu extremists will be disrupted and that Nepalese Christians will be able to live in peace and freedom.