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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #34

NEPAL

 

Country rank

34

Persecution score

65.76

Last year’s rank

32

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Strong), Religious nationalism (Strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

30,260,000

Christians

1,285,000 (4.2%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Hinduism

Government

Federal parliamentary republic

Leader

Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Nepal through:
• Bibles and Christian literature distribution
• Emergency aid relief
• Socio-economic development
• Literacy classes
• Legal assistance

ABOUT NEPAL

What does persecution look like in Nepal?

In Nepal, converts from Hinduism are put under the most pressure; they are viewed as deviating from the faith of the ancestors, and therefore breaking with their culture and their national identity. Converts—and members of Protestant churches—experience pressure from family, friends, community and local authorities. Roman Catholic churches, as well as churches where more foreigners attend, often have fewer issues. 

Nepal has a great deal of political instability, driven by governmental infighting as well as a constant push-and-pull between powerful neighbors China and India. Hindu extremists occasionally take advantage of this fact by attacking Christians. 

There is also an anti-conversion law in place in Nepal, which has been used to expel foreign citizens recently. This law can be broadly applied, and since it says that anyone who causes an individual to convert to a different religion can be imprisoned, fined or deported, it has been used to target Christians. In some areas, Christians were also left out of COVID-19 relief that the government provided, re-emphasizing their status as second-class citizens. 

What has changed this year?

Nepal fell two spots from 2020 to the 2021 World Watch List—and yet, persecution actually rose. But persecution rose worldwide, so it means Nepal is lower on the list. Pressure is high for Christians in every sphere of life, particularly in their private and national lives. This shows how restrictive life is for Christian converts from Hinduism, and how much the governing authorities make life difficult for followers of Christ. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Christians who convert from Hinduism are at most risk in Nepal. Often this is worse in rural areas than in urban settings. Additionally, all Christians are at risk of accusations under the anti-conversion law. 

How women experience persecution

Christian women and girls mostly convert to Christianity after witnessing healing and miracles in their own lives or among their closest family. However, it is dangerous for them to reveal their faith, so they quietly or secretly take part in church services. When found out, they are often discriminated against by their peers, socially ostracized and severely beaten by family members. The immediate family members of Christians may lock them up. After being isolated, they are often deprived of basic survival needs, educational support, parental possessions and basic legal rights. Physical violence comes gradually after emotional and mental torture. In the initial phase, they are emotionally tortured by the immediate family members (that is, the husband, in-laws, parents). Gradually, the mental and physical torture starts until finally, they become social outcasts, putting them in a socially vulnerable position.

On very rare occasions, families make premarital arrangements to marry their daughters to non-Christian men. There are some reported incidents, including the family making death threats.

How men experience persecution

Christian men and boys who are recent converts are particularly vulnerable to physical and mental torture from family and society. They are often denied access to ancestral property by immediate family members and denied basic legal rights to a birth certificate and citizenship by local government administrators. Furthermore, known converts face harassment in public places such as markets and the workplace.

According to Nepali law, citizens cannot be barred from public office because of their religious beliefs. However, Christians in public service, especially in the armed forces, have complained that in actual practice, they are denied promotion because of their faith. In rural areas, it is reported that Hindus obstruct Christians from being a part of communal and other public forums. In the Nepalese army, government positions and police, Christians are forced to worship Hindu gods and observe Hindu festivals. This includes eating food offered to idols or putting vermilion powder on their heads during the Hindu festivities. Christian men usually migrate to new cities or areas to set up afresh and avoid economic deprivation.

Local independent church pastors and leaders are the main targets of harassment for faith-related reasons. Hindu extremists will focus their attacks on church leaders to set an example to other Christians in the area. They also attack church leaders because they are regarded as the main actors behind the increasing numbers of Christian conversions. 

When men and boys are severely beaten and socially ostracized, they have fewer economic opportunities for supporting the family. Most men and older boys are the breadwinners for the family, so this form of discrimination means the whole family faces both economic troubles and social insecurity.

How can I help Christians in Nepal

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Nepal?

Open Doors works through church partners and volunteers in Nepal. The ministry is focused in several areas, such as Bible and Christian material distribution, training for church leaders and Christians (including persecution preparedness training) socio-economic aid (including emergency aid for COVID-19) legal help and advocacy, and special projects as requested by the local church.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nepal, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray that Christians in Nepal will have wisdom to know how to share their faith safely, and boldness to continue sharing the gospel. Pray God will soften the hearts of those enforcing the restrictions on evangelism, and that He might draw them to Himself through the courageous witness of our brothers and sisters.

-Pray for Christian women in Nepal who face persecution from their family members. Many are beaten, threatened, not allowed to go to church, rejected and left alone. Please pray that, with God’s strength, these women will continue to stand strong in their faith, and through them God would bring their entire families to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

-Pray for believers who live in very remote villages. It is difficult for our local partners to contact them, and when they go through persecution, it can be difficult for our partners to reach them quickly. Pray for the Christians in these villages, that God would strengthen them and provide their needs.

A PRAYER FOR NEPAL

Almighty God, we pray for our sisters and brothers who follow You in Nepal. We ask You would protect and sustain their faith in the midst of constant pressure. We pray for those Christians living in places where they are discriminated against or ostracized for their faith in Christ. We also pray for people who are targeted because they share Your gospel with a hungry world. We pray You would rescue Your people and hear their cries. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Photo credits: Unsplash