Bhutan has been in the international news over the last couple of days, due to the visit there of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The media attention is shining a spotlight on this small Himalayan nation, and it is being portrayed as a “happy place” to live.
Whilst for the majority Buddhist population this may well be true, for the country’s minority groups, including around 20,000 Christians (2.8% of the population) Bhutan is definitely not such a happy place.
Bhutan’s state religion is Buddhism and other religions are barely tolerated, so life as a Christian is difficult. Church buildings are illegal and non-Buddhists are not awarded the same rights as Buddhists, such as access to free education. Proselytism and incitement to convert are illegal and any converts to Christianity can lose their citizenship.
According to the constitution, Buddhism is not only the cultural, but also the spiritual heritage of Bhutan. Although there is usually no official pressure to participate in Buddhist festivals or to live according to traditional customs, people are expected to do so, and those who do not are viewed with suspicion, including Christians.
Converts to Christianity frequently endure threats and pressures to return to Buddhism. They can pray and worship privately in their homes, but they struggle to to obtain official permission to meet together.
Christians seeking employment also face problems as they are a minority and, therefore, are victims of discrimination. They often have to live in difficult economic and social circumstances, and some Christians have reported losing their jobs after their employers found out they were Christian.
Until 1965, Bhutan remained closed to Christianity, as well as to all other external influences. Since then,however, the Church has experienced continual growth, particularly in the south and in the major towns.
- Pray for Bhutan, for its people to find true “happiness” in the life and hope that come from faith in Jesus Christ.
- Pray for Christians in Bhutan, as they daily face oppression and persecution. Pray for the opportunities to meet together to encourage each other and build each other up in their faith.
- Pray for the government of Bhutan to recognise Christians as legitimate citizens, to give them the same access to education and other resources that Buddhists have, and to honour the constitution that gives freedom of belief to all.
- Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit over Bhutan, for many to come to rue faith in Jesus Christ.
Romans 15 vs 13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”