The Government of Nepal has decided to remove Christmas from the calendar of national celebrations, sparking protests from Christians who want its immediate reinstatement.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Home Affairs Shakti Basnet said, “We are forced to take such a decision, not to hurt Christians but to control the rising number of public holidays”. However, he added: “we are ready to provide leave for Christians working for the government.”
For Rev CB Gahatraj, secretary general of the National Federation of Christians, “Christians do not just work for the government. If Christmas is not a national holiday, the workers of the private sector will not be able to celebrate it. The Government recognises 83 festivities for Hindus and other communities, but none for Christians.”
Christmas was recognised as a national holiday eight years ago, when Nepal became a secular state. Since then, the celebration of the birth of Jesus has attracted members of other religious communities and last year, the celebration took on a special significance, bringing hope to the people affected by India’s trade embargo.
Rev Gahatraj is concerned that Nepali authorities have been “influenced by anti-Christian tendencies. The government is trying to ignore us and suppress our rights.”
Last weekend, a group of Christian leaders met to challenge the decision and drafted a petition to deliver to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and to the Home Affairs minister, with te backing of the Inter-religious Council-Nepal, and other interfaith groups and activist organisations.
Rev Gahatraj warned, “We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for our faith and the protection of freedom of worship. We strongly demand the restoration of the festivity and that the recent decision be dropped within a week. If the government fails to meet our request, we will protest across the country.”
According to the 2011 census, Catholics and Protestants represent about 1.5 per cent of the population. In 2006, there were only 0.5%.
- Pray for the Nepal Government to listen to the voice of Christians and reinstate Christmas as a public holiday.
- Pray for Christians in Nepal as they ave growing hostility from Hindu nationalists. Pray for protection for them, their property and their right to freedom of worship across the country.
- Pray for Nepal as it continues to rebuild after last year’s earthquake.
- Pray that man across Nepal will come to know Christ Jesus and life, hope and truth in His Gospel and grace.
Ephesians 6 vs 18: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.“