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Nepal believers' faith is beacon in Hindu nation

 

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A Nepali mother teaches her daughter how to welcome Hindu gods into their home. A country of 29 million, Nepal was until recently the only official Hindu State in the world.

NEPAL (BP) — Imagine heading to church on Sunday, but this week you walk in the doors – not of a large brick building with a cross ascending from the roof – but of a fellow believer’s humble home.

“Rather than using podiums and pews, the whole group sits on the floor, including the presenter,” a Nepali believer said, describing the indigenous worship at house churches in which he is involved. “The music is performed with traditional instruments, not Western keyboards or drums.”

Christian worship has not always occurred in this form in Nepal, the only offical Hindu state in the world. Many churches in the Asian country started out similarly to those in the United States.

Royce Allard*, an international Christian who mentors Nepali believers, said because of multiple threats that Nepali Christians face, two Western-style churches in Nepal now see many benefits to practicing indigenous forms of worship.

“Both churches were successful in raising financial support from outside of Nepal for building meeting centers, in one case supporting the local pastor with foreign funds and in the other case constructing a school facility,” Allard said.

Then the country’s instability interrupted the churches’ plans. Nepal’s political volatility stems from short-lived governments whose promises of progress have fallen flat as well as from the recent escalation of the violent Maoist movement in the country. The Communist Party of Nepal (the Maoists) began as a political party in Nepal in 1994 and launched a “People’s War” against the government early in 1996.

In 2002, the political situation underwent a dramatic change when “the king made the decision to remove the standing government and directly take on the Maoist insurgency,” Allard explained. A negotiated ceasefire between Maoists and government forces broke down early the next year.

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Nepal remains a predominantly agricultural society, yet one in which the perseverance of Christians amid political turmoil has gained notice. Christians in the country believe new reforms will help bring new hope for Nepal.

“The Maoist insurgency has forced the closure of the [church’s] school, the elimination of outside funding for one pastor, and the restriction of meeting in the outside-funded buildings,” Allard said. “Now the churches meet in believers’ homes, rotate leadership among local elders, grow with greater autonomy from the original leaders, and demonstrate more dependence on the teachings of the Bible.”

Throughout Nepal, Maoists have targeted Christians for persecution because of the perceived foreign influence they represent. The violence, however, has not diminished the faith of Nepali Christians.

Conditions continued to deteriorate in the beleaguered country until late 2006 when the opinion of the people convinced the king to reinstate a parliamentary government.

Nepal now has a new government, a new declaration making the country a secular state, new peace deals in the works, and new hope for the future of the country. The government has scheduled an election for a constitutional assembly in June.

Christians serving in the country said they believe there is reason for hope in Nepal that reaches far beyond any political circumstances.

“With the government change in Nepal and a newly elected secular state, some international Christians decided to test the waters,” said Truman Cleversey*, another international Christian who serves in Nepal. “They set out for a new ministry area, where they asked God for men and women of peace [see Luke 10:6] and for five new [house] church plants.”

These Christians went out armed with tracts, audio Bibles and “JESUS” films. While passing these out and sharing their testimonies, the Christians met a group of Nepali believers who asked to join them.

“What has happened in the past and is happening now in the land of Nepal is a miracle,” Allard said.

“What was impossible for people was possible for God, who is the true source of peace, justice, and reconciliation,” he said.

 

* Name changed