Nepal, local elections, and attitudes towards religion

Nepal (MNN) — In recent history, Nepal has taken great strides to catch up with the modern world. Just a few years ago, they abolished their centuries-old Hindu Monarchy. In 2015, their new constitution declared Nepal a secular state. Right now, Nepal is in the middle of local elections. There are a couple of reasons why this is significant. As we shared previously, the last round of local elections took place 20 years ago. But on May 14th, the first local elections under the new constitution took place. The results so far suggest that Nepal is taking its new status as a secular state seriously. And yet, a strong presence of resistance towards religious minorities still exists.

(Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

Vision Beyond Borders supports the Church in Nepal through their woman, child, and pastor programs. We spoke with one of the pastors who works alongside them. He says while the second phase of local elections is supposed to take place soon, nothing is guaranteed. Two minor parties have threatened to boycott these elections, causing postponements.

The pastor explains the four major parties in Nepal. There is the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist), the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre), and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP).

This last party wants Nepal to revert back to the Hindu Monarchy that existed before it was abolished in 2008. The other three parties, he says, are much more accepting of religious minorities like Christians.

As can be seen from the results of the first phase, the RPP is not nearly as popular as the other three major parties. However, they do still have a significant number of supporters.

That’s why this pastor says, “When we see this election from a Christian perspective, there is a challenge for every Christian in Nepal. So we need to pray for this nation. Though there are three other parties who are not against Christianity, there is a challenge, and so we must pray.”

However, he knows they cannot fully rely on politics and the government. In politics, any outcome is possible. Change can take place at any time. But what the Church can depend on, is God.

“Whatever party will be there as a ruling party, we believe that God will open a door for us for evangelism, for Christian events, and so on.”
Opposition to Christianity
It seems to be a common theme in many countries — that religious minorities may face little discrimination in the cities, but in rural areas, there is greater intolerance. In Nepal, this was reflected in the first phase of elections in that in many of the bigger metropolitan areas, the RPP did not have any officials elected. But once you get outside of the cities, things change.

“Christians are facing challenges, not in the city areas, but in rural areas Christians are not allowed to share the Gospel. And [there] is one place there [that’s] known as ‘Christian-free nation’. They don’t want Christians to come into their district. They don’t want Christians to share the Gospel.”

Regionally, there are differences as well. The pastor says eastern Nepal is generally okay. But there are problems in the western and southern part of the country. He says some Hindus believe Christians are of the lowest caste.

“They don’t really persecute physically. They just want to stop the evangelism that’s taking place in Nepal,” he explains.

And so, while it appears that attitudes overall are changing towards religious minorities, we must continue to be in prayer.

“We request you all to pray for our nation. We can pray for our pastors and Christian ministers who are working in different parts of Nepal,” the pastor says.

He says to pray especially for those who are working outside of the cities and may face opposition. He asks us to pray for their financial needs, and for their evangelism to be effective. Furthermore, he asks that the Gospel would be freely accepted by villagers in remote areas.

“We want you to pray for the hearts of the people who have not even heard the name of Jesus; and we want you to pray for the pastors, the leaders, the Christian ministers who are working.”

Again, the pastor reiterates that whatever direction Nepal goes, Christians in this nation can remain confident.

“We don’t know what will be the result of this election. And whatever the election will be, we want you to pray that [the] Gospel and evangelism may not be hindered.”

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