Nepalese Catholics and Protestants are responding to attacks by Maoist extremists across the country praying for a peaceful atmosphere during the Constituent Assembly elections scheduled for tomorrow . The initiative launched by the Christians has led to thousands of people, Christian and non, to go to church despite the distance and the total absence of public transport because of the attacks and the general strike called by the extremists.
Nabin Tamang , 21, from Chabahil ( Kathmandu ) walked almost 10 kilometers just to attend prayers held in the Cathedral of the Assumption. “Usually – he says – I attend Sunday mass. A few days ago some anti- elections groups blocked all transport, targeting public buses with petrol bombs and stones, injuring dozens of people. So, I decided to make the journey on foot”.
Rajan Rai , a Protestant Christian from Jorparti (suburb of Kathmandu ) walked with all his family for more than two hours to be able to pray in the church of Gyaneshwor . ” My whole family – he says – came from Jorparti regardless of the hours of walking .”
To prevent the elections on 19 November, radical Maoists groups have set Nepal on fire. Led by former leader Mohan Baidhya , the militants have unleashed violence across the country , carrying out ambushes, vandalism, arson and bombs. On 13 November, the Maoists attacked public and private transport, even detonating a bomb aboard a bus in Kathmandu.
Catholic and Protestant leaders have asked Christians to offer a witness other than the hatred and violence perpetrated by extremist parties . Bishop Anthony Sharma , bishop of Kathmandu , has launched an appeal to the thousands of faithful who attended Mass yesterday : “We pray for the peaceful election and the new constitution of the country. We call for dialogue between the various political parties to limit their disputes”. Narayan Sharma, Protestant Bishop of Kathmandu invited the faithful “to pray for a secular democracy and for the Constituent Assembly that will be involved in writing a new constitution.”
The elections take place after five years of political chaos and four coalition governments, who have continuously failed to draft a democratic constitution , after centuries of Hindu monarchy .
The main political parties – Congress Party (conservative ) and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Ucpnm , Maoist ) – have assured the population that, once in power, the Constitution will be drafted within a year.