Nepal (MNN) — Gospel for Asia native missionary Manja Tamang was released from a Nepali prison Friday after serving 9 years of a 20-year sentence. Manja was imprisoned in 2000 after being falsely accused of murder.
Manja was freed along with 13 others in his prison and 120 others from jails around the country. His release was the cause of celebration among Christians in Nepal and was praised by GFA Founder and President K.P. Yohannan.
"We rejoice that our faithful brother has been released from prison," said Dr. Yohannan from his Carrollton, Texas, office. "He was unjustly accused and has spent nearly a decade in jail. But his testimony is a parallel with the testimony of the Apostle Paul. Even in prison, our dear brother was preaching the Gospel and bringing people to Christ. Whatever has happened has been used by the Lord to bring even more people to Him."
Manja's saga began one day as he was out sharing the Gospel. As he walked along a river path, he saw a dead body and immediately contacted the police.
An anti-Christian extremist group who had opposed Manja's ministry seized the opportunity to stop his work. They arranged for several false witnesses to testify against him, "framing" him for the murder. Manja was arrested, charged with the crime that he did not commit, and beaten to near death.
Even though the widow of the deceased man testified to Manja's innocence, he was was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His case was appealed all the way to the Nepali Supreme Court, where, citing the "evidence," it was upheld.
At the time, Nepal was officially a Hindu kingdom, and Christians were routinely and officially persecuted. Under today's secular government, Christians have more legal freedom to worship openly, but Hindu extremists are becoming increasingly militant in opposing other religions. They have attacked individual Christian pastors and have threatened the lives of Christian leaders.
All through his imprisonment, Manja continued to be a joyful witness, sharing the Gospel with the other prisoners. He organized and led Bible studies and worship services, with at least 30 inmates attending many of those services. And several men in his little "prison congregation" chose to follow Christ. Manja also taught social studies classes in the prison's education system.
"Manja's patience in bearing all these difficulties and injustices is a lesson for all of us to learn," said N. Sharma, GFA's leader in Nepal. "Whenever I saw Manja in prison, he was always smiling. He reminded me often of the Apostle Paul's own statement from prison ‘rejoice in the Lord always.' This is a quality that can only be developed through bearing pain from within, such as our brother Manja has done."
Manja's wife, Rati, was equally as strong during his long imprisonment. During her time as a "single" mother of two, she completed studies at a GFA-affiliated Bible college and carried on her husband's ministry. She also works with the Women's Fellowship and teaches the children in the GFA Bridge of Hope Center in her village. Manja was reunited with Rati and their two children on Friday. He was also welcomed back to freedom by Sharma and other pastors from both Nepal and India.
"The Body of Christ from literally around the world has been praying for this day, and now we can all rejoice together at what God has done in releasing our dear Brother Manja," Dr. Yohannan said. "Let us continue to pray for him as he and his family begin a new chapter of their life-together for the first time in many years,"
Sharma, the Nepal leader, also asked for continued prayer for Manja, Rati and their two children.
"Let us pray for them as Manja adjusts to life outside of prison," Sharma said. "Pray also for the prisoners whom Manja was ministering to while behind bars. Pray that God will raise up a new leader from among them so that they will be able to continue growing in their faith, even as our dear brother returns to life outside the prison."
Manja began serving as a GFA-supported missionary in Nepal in 1997. When he began his ministry, very few people in this small, mountainous country professed Christ.
The first person Manja shared the Gospel with was a village chief, who chose to receive Christ. Later, 14 villagers chose to receive Christ, and that small band of believers became the core around which his ministry grew.