Nepal church workers unfazed by anti-conversion bill

By July 15, 2011

Nepal (MNN) — In about a month and a half, Nepal is supposed to
have a new constitution ready to go.

Faced with an August 31 deadline, there's a high risk of
a collapsed peace process should the draft not be completed by that time. 

The new deadline is the extension of another deadline
at the end of May which was missed. The May target came about as the result of a
2008 election that eventually brought about an accord between the Maoist rebels
and the government. However, the peace was hinged on meeting a
two-year mandate for a new constitution.

The political chaos that could result from another miss
could permanently derail what's been accomplished since the civil war ended in
2006. 

With such dire warnings ringing in their ears, lawmakers set
about working on something they could finish quickly: the penal codes. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a committee established by the government to review those
submitted a proposal that would ban all religious propagation. 

The concern is that this revision mirrors similar
anti-conversion laws throughout India and pushes even further away from
religious freedom. Christians have been
sounding the alarm over the proposed changes, but Ty Stakes, Regional
Director for HCJB Global Asia Pacific, says their partners are much more steady
in their response. "They've experienced persecution before. Almost everybody I know
that is a Christian has experienced some sort of persecution from their
families."

Stakes points out that 25-30 years ago, there were hardly
any Christians in Nepal. He estimates
that today, there are probably over 700,000 Christians. They were the trailblazers, so hardship and
oppression isn't seen by them as a new thing.
"Many of the leaders I know that are older, who lived through the
times before the mid 80s and earlier (and were Christians), have been in jail,
and they have been prosecuted previously by the government for their faith."

However, because the
Church is growing, there are many new believers who haven't experienced
persecution yet, and there are questions about the "chilling effect" rumors of
trouble might have on evangelists. The answer is simple, Stakes notes. "My friends
in Nepal see the political instability as evidence of a continued open door for
them to reach out to their communities, to their people for the Gospel."

History brings a great deal of strength and confidence to
the foundation laid by the Gospel. "The advantage they have is a
generation of people who are right there, right now, that can say to the many,
many people who have come to Christ in the last decade or so, 'This is
going to be okay. We've lived through this before. Get ready.' They can prepare for it and speak to it from their experience."

HCJB Global equips these evangelists for evangelism and
church planting, says Stakes. "These are
the guys that God has brought to us who want to see a greater evangelism
blanket put out there with local radio, so we help them do local radio." Many have also established small Bible
training schools, as well as leadership training schools, working on the principle
of grassroots. "The leadership
development process is always behind, so they just keep struggling ahead and teaching
people to teach other people."

With the indigenous church structure setting deep roots, are
there concerns that an anti-conversion law will undo years of work? Stakes notes, "This isn't a done deal yet. The legislation
is not in place, and it's not being
enforced on any level. The situation for Christians to reach out to their
communities hasn't changed as of today."

A new draft constitution is supposed to be presented August
31. There's time to pray. "Pray that God will keep the door open, and
that He will create momentum in the political process so that as He's working out
His will in governments and leadership all around the world, He'll do that
in Nepal and will continue to allow the opportunity for the Nepali
Church to grow."

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