Famous for its high peaks and wind-whipped prayer flags, Hindu-majority Nepal used to be a nation un-reached by Christianity.
Now, however, according to the World Christian Database which tracks global trends in Christianity, the country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world.
Bishwa Mani Pokharel, news chief at Nepal’s Nagarik newspaper, pulls out copies of the census to show the statistical gallop of Christianity across Nepal. In 1951, there were no listed Christians and in 1961, just 458.
However, by 2001, there were nearly 102,000 and, a decade later, that number had more than tripled to over 375,000.
Pokharel thinks the increase is actually much higher, but inaccurately reported. “Before, when the Christians had a party, they slaughtered a chicken. Now, they slaughter a goat,” says Pokharel, who has been reporting on the conversions. “That extra meat is necessary to feed all of the new people who’ve joined the guest list.”
Much of this growth can be attributed to Nepal’s internal changes. Before 1950, Nepal was closed to foreigners, but the growth of popularity in mountain climbing changed that. Also, starting with the Maoist Civil War of the 1990s and culminating with the end of the monarchy in 2008, the country has transitioned from a Hindu kingdom to a communist-led secular republic with greater freedom of religion.
Encouraging someone to convert to another religion has always been illegal, but as Nepal eased away from its official Hindu status, the rules lightened up. Proselytising remains illegal, but with political instability and weak law enforcement, that doesn’t stop it from happening.
Meanwhile, the earthquake last year may also have strengthened the growth in Christianity. Where the government has failed to help poor villagers, Christian aid groups have trickled in to fill the gaps, carrying with them a message of salvation.
Nepali leaders are not happy about this rapid growth of the Church. Before the release of the country’s first constitution last September, debates raged over whether to scrap secularism and go back to an official Hindu designation.
While Christians and other religious minorities feared a clampdown on religious freedom, the Hindu right insisted secularism would allow Christianity to take over and, when lawmakers did ensure secularism in the constitution, police needed water cannons and tear gas to dispel angry Hindu protesters.
- Give thanks for the growth of Christianity in Nepal, especially over the last few years.
- Pray for Christians in Nepal, who face growing opposition from Hindu nationalists. Pray for protection for them and their churches, and for courage to continue to witness to their faith to their families and communities.
- Pray for those still struggling after last year’s earthquakes, for resources to rebuild homes and villages, and for many to hear the Gospel through the Christians working with the earthquake relief.
- Pray for good resources and mature leaders to disciple the new believers, and for a viable, vibrant church in Nepal to continue to grow.
Acts 16 vs 5: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.”
Source: http://www.npr.org, http://www.persecution.org/2016