Nepal (MNN) — What will 2017 hold for believers in Nepal? If you look at the last high-profile religious freedom case handled in December, it could be an interesting year. The good news: the eight Christians arrested for ‘evangelism’ under the 2015 constitution, got a break.
Bibles For the World’s John Pudaite explains, “We praise God that just a couple days ago, they were totally cleared of all the charges. This is a very decisive move and something that really encourages us for our work in Nepal.”
According to the World Watch Monitor, the seven men and one woman, all counselors, were charged with ‘proselytizing’ in July. The original story indicated the group distributed a pamphlet about Jesus in a Christian school, while helping children through the trauma of the 2015 earthquake. However, the newly-adopted constitution, in Article 26, paragraph 3, includes the following language:
“…no person shall act or make others act in a manner which is contrary to public health, decency and morality, or… convert a person of one religion to another religion”.
The World Evangelical Association and Christian Solidarity Worldwide issued a joint statement to the United Nations four months ago urging Nepal to drop the charges and amend Article 26 of the new constitution “to guarantee the right to choose and change one’s religion or belief, and the right to choose not to believe in a religion.”
Increased pressure on Nepalese Christians may be signaling the rise of nationalistic Hinduism. While the government may claim to be secular, there is a strong Hindu influence and proselytizing is not allowed.
It is against that backdrop that Pudaite led a team of Bible teachers to help lead a Seed Sowers Seminar in Kathmandu and Bahrabise, Nepal. Hundreds of church leaders came to the conferences. What makes it remarkable is Bahrabise is a disaster zone.
He goes on to say that Bahrabise, Sindhupalchok was very close to the epicenter of a devastating 7.3 earthquake in May 2015 (along the same fault line as the April 2015 7.8 temblor). And yet, God: “Almost every one of them had lost their homes during the (May 2015) earthquake and were rebuilding their lives, but still, they were on fire to continue sharing the Gospel with their fellow Nepali villagers in that rural area.”
For five years, BFTW has been coming alongside believers in Nepal, resourcing them, teaching them, and encouraging them in the hope of the Gospel…even as the pressure on Christians has been increasing exponentially. The network with whom they partner was in place ‘for such a time as this’. Because they were living and working alongside so many other quake survivors, there was an open door for a different narrative, says Pudaite.
“We’ve now printed two million Gospels of John, which we use to equip national workers in evangelism. We’ve seen about 1.7 million of these distributed.”
The result? “During this trip, we got reports that some of these areas that some of our networked partners were working in, they’ve seen the percentage of Christians rise from five percent all the way up to 30 percent.”
2017 will be a year of growth on many fronts in Nepal. Let’s keep praying for Christians, who make up only about 1.4 percent of the population, as they seek to bring the Gospel of Christ to a rebuilding nation.