In March of 1959, 100,000 Tibetans fled from Tibet into Nepal, Bhutan, and India as a result of the Communist Chinese occupation. Today, thirty-five years later, many Tibetan refugees still live in these countries.
Tibetans are generally very proud of their heritage. In fact, most of them have not assimilated culturally into the nations where they have settled, but have maintained their traditional practices. However, many Tibetans, especially the youth, have been heavily influenced by the western culture.
Tibetan Buddhism dominates the culture of the Tibetans who live in Nepal. They worship their king, the Dalai Lama, considering him a god. He serves as both their spiritual and political leader. Tibetans are very dedicated to their religious beliefs. Prayer flags, stupas (dome-shaped monuments used to house Buddhist relics), prayer beads, and prayer wheels are a common sight all over their region.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Tibetans usually have jobs that are related to the carpet industry. The majority of them work in, manage or even own carpet factories. However, in recent years, the demand for Tibetan carpets has declined, causing the unemployment rate to rise among this people group.
Tibetans are traditionally divided into groups according to geographic origin, occupation, and social status. Social distinctions between the upper class and the commoners are evidenced in their dress, housing, and speech.
Tibetan women usually wear chubas, or striped aprons, over ankle-length, wrapped dresses. Their responsibilities include caring for the children, preparing the food, and tending to other domestic duties, while the men do the bulk of the work outside the home.
The extended family, which often consists of three generations, is the most important functioning kinship group among Tibetans. Although they tend to dote on their children, they believe in strong discipline and religious instruction. Tibetan society is patrilineal, which means that inheritances and family names are passed down through the males. Family names are also used to differentiate those of noble origin from others.
Traditional Tibetan art focuses on religious worship and includes sculptures, statues, scroll paintings of deities, carved altars, and religious texts.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Lamaism, was developed in Tibet during the seventh century. It eventually spread throughout the entire Himalayan region. Some of the characteristic features of Tibetan Buddhism include: its ready acceptance of the Buddhist religious writings as a true revelation of the Buddhist way; its emphasis on the master/disciple relationship; its recognition of a huge number of gods, saints, and demons; and finally, the marked piety of its followers. They express their devotion by giving offerings, spinning prayer wheels, making pilgrimages to holy sites, and chanting spells called mantras.
Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, or that, when the body dies, the soul is reborn as either an animal or a human. They also believe that every action influences how the soul will be born in the next life. Such teachings have caused them to live their lives in bondage and fear.
What Are Their Needs?
The government of Nepal fiercely opposes any form of evangelism, and persecution against Christians is common. Many believers have spent long periods of time in prison for sharing their faith.
Although many of the Nepali Tibetans have heard the name of Jesus and have some awareness of Christianity, they still do not have a clear concept of the Gospel. As a whole, they remain antagonistic and resistant to any type of Christian witness. The demonic side of Tibetan Buddhism is very real and can only be battled through prayer.
- Pray against the spirit of Buddhism that is keeping the Tibetan people bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
- Pray that the doors of Nepal will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask God to encourage and protect the 53 known Tibetan Christians in Nepal.
- Pray that these believers will have opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
- Ask God to open the hearts of Nepal’s governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will set these Buddhists free from the bondage of fear.
- Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to the Tibetans through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Tibetans of Nepal.