Oct 12, 2023

Churches targeted as Nepal’s Christians come under renewed attack

In Nepal, attacks on Christians by extremist groups are increasing at an alarming rate. Over the course of several weeks a number of churches were attacked and damaged after Christians were falsely accused of slaughtering cows, which are sacred to the Hindu religion.

pastors with paint blackened faces in Nepal.

CSI’s local partners in Nepal are reporting a worrying increase in attacks on Christian communities in the Hindu-majority country. They say the spate of violent incidents began in the area of Dharan in eastern Nepal. The catalyst was the construction of a new church in August.  Radical Hindu groups objected to the siting of the church near a Hindu temple and issued threats against the pastor. The case was referred to the district government where officials sided with the Hindu groups and closed the church down.

Immediately after this violence flared again when videos were spread on social media showing an indigenous tribal group, the Limbus, slaughtering cows in Dharan. Although the Limbus traditionally eat beef, the Nepalese government has banned its consumption. The cow is the national animal of Nepal and is regarded as sacred in the Hindu religion. Angry Hindus filed a complaint with the police leading to the arrest of members of the ethnic group.

When Christians were then also accused of slaughtering sacred cows Hindu protests broke out across the region, our partners say. The local administration responded to the increasing violence by imposing a curfew.

Hindu nationalist rally sparks violence

At the end of August there were further violent incidents in southern Nepal, close to the Indian border. In the district formerly known as Nawalparasi, a controversial Hindu priest from India held a rally where he incited the people to drive other religions out of the country and establish a Hindu nation.

Many young Hindu extremists who attended the rally went on a rampage afterwards, damaging seven churches in different places, according to our partners. Pastors and church members were brutally attacked, and were daubed with black paint to indicate that they are seen as social outcasts.

“Today, August 30, at around 12:40 pm some Hindu people came by bike and attacked us and our church,” a local pastor said. “They broke all the windows, chairs, etc. They were throwing stones and bricks at us, but we escaped and are safe.”

The CSI project partner is concerned about the difficult situation facing many Christians and is trying to mediate with local leaders. For example, Pastor Nabin Tharu and her family were smeared with black paint and dragged out of the village where they lived. They have not been allowed to return to their home and church.

Through our partner, CSI is providing support to victims of attacks who need medical help, spiritual support or counseling. Pastors who have been driven out of their villages receive financial help.

Indian influence

Increasing Christian persecution can be observed especially in the lowlands of Nepal, a region which borders India and where the population is influenced by its Hindu nationalist rhetoric. The government does not seem to be interested in a solution, our partner says; on the contrary, voices in favor of a Hindu nation are increasingly heard in parliament.

Although the Christian community makes up less than two percent of Nepal’s population, it is growing rapidly, mainly through the work of missionaries, including from South Korea. Hindu nationalists object to this missionary work and what they regard as an unwelcome foreign influence.

Since 2017, an anti-conversion law is in force in Nepal which has made the situation of religious minorities in the country more precarious.

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