Nepal (MNN) — A pro-Hindu political party in Nepal is serious about making Nepal a completely Hindu nation. Most recently, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party formed a committee with its central members to advance the demands of their self-proclaimed “struggle programmes.” Inspired by similar trends in India, their nationalist agenda is being pushed in every province of the country.
We talked with Todd Nettleton of The Voice of the Martyrs about what this means for Nepal. “There is already favoritism in the law [and] in the constitution towards Hinduism. There is already a law against trying to convert someone or encourage them to convert. So how big of a step is it from where we are now to saying, ‘Okay, Hinduism is the official religion?’ I don’t think it’s that large of a step.”
Nettleton says the RPP is taking cues from their neighbors in India who are also pushing for a Hindu Rashtra.
“The pressure for that is coming up from India where you have a lot of that same pressure — that India is going to be a Hindu state and every Indian needs to be a Hindu. So they are kind of exporting that theology.”
The Nepali population is roughly 82 percent Hindu. Christians only make up 1.4 percent of the population.
Minority Nepali believers are no stranger to growing hostility. Just last year, Nepal passed legislation criminalizing evangelism with a five-year prison sentence.
“That, I think, is much more on the radar of Christian leaders and church leaders in Nepal than this ‘sort of, maybe’ proposal for later making Hinduism the official religion. They are very much aware right now that they are in danger from the law that already exists. So I think that’s more in front of their minds for them than what might happen later,” Nettleton says.
“One of the things about the law [passed last year] is it specifically talked about foreigners being included in this. This is not just for Nepalis. This is for foreigners. We want missionaries out of the country. We want to close down missionary activity from foreigners. I think that definitely got everybody’s attention, but the reality for us as Christians — both as foreign workers and for the Nepali Christians — is our call is to share the Gospel. Our call is to let people know about Jesus. What the law says is what it says. It doesn’t change the biblical mandate that we have to share the Gospel.”
With Hindu nationalists in Nepal mimicking similar moves in India, Christian ministries in Nepal are also wary of the potential for increased pressure on international NGOs.
“I think it is certainly something to watch — if the government starts to question Christian groups [on] where they are receiving their funding. In India, the case was Compassion International. If they perceive child sponsorship and caring and feeding children as a way to ‘force their conversion,’ then yes, you probably will see some pressure against that and some pushback against that. I’m not aware that that has happened so far, so that is something we sort of watch for the future.”
Right now, prayer is a critical way Christians around the world can stand with our Nepali brothers and sisters.
“You always want to pray for the Gospel to go forward,” Nettleton emphasizes. “There are amazing, courageous Christians in Nepal who are sharing the Gospel every day, and they know they could go to jail for five years for doing that. So pray for them. Pray for boldness and courage and encouragement and pray for fruit for the work they are doing.
“The other thing we can pray for is for the government leaders who are making decisions and putting laws into place. [Pray] that wisdom would prevail and that people who love Jesus would be put in positions where they can influence and speak into that process in a way that honors religious freedom and ultimately blesses our Christian brothers and sisters there.”
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Header photo: Hindu temple of Krishna, image courtesy of Ashok Prabhakaran via Flickr under Creative Commons: https://goo.gl/epJcBU