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REPORTS ON CHRISTIANS IN BHUTAN

 

Read Bhutan News at  www.bhutannewsonline.com

 

REPORTS ON SITUATION OF CHRISTIANS IN BHUTAN

 

The report on the situation of Christians in Bhutan collected from other sources

 

Christian Solidarity International (CSI) 11 July 2001

 

Bhutan  “Severe Persecution”

 

Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, a kingdom bordering India and China. Ever more Christians fall victim to state repression, are discriminated against and expelled from the country. On Palm Sunday 2001, Christians enter the only church in Bhutan, situated in the south of the country. Police and government officials, stationed at the church’s entrance, take note of the name of each churchgoer who does not manage to escape in time. The pastors are arrested immediately and, upon arrival at the police station, threatened with imprisonment should they continue with their mission work.

 

Discriminated against


Seventy percent of Bhutan’s over 1.8 million inhabitants are Buddhists. The 65,000 Christians have only one church at their disposal. Christians in the state administration or in private companies must sign so-called “Norms and Rules for Religious Practice”. The document places restrictions on a Christian’s religious life and social position; Christians are not to receive medical assistance from the state and are not eligible for job promotion. Their children must pay high tuition fees, whereas Buddhist and Hindu children enjoy free education. Mission work and travel abroad are strictly forbidden to all Christians. Whoever refuses to sign this restrictive document is forced to leave Bhutan. In addition to all this discrimination, many Christians have been forcefully driven from their villages by their own Buddhist neighbors.

 

Buddhists and Hindus privileged


In order to remain active within the country, Christians may become socially involved in relief work in hospitals, but must abstain from giving any Christian testimony. Importing Christian literature is strictly forbidden. Buddhists and Hindus alike receive social assistance. Buddhist monks obtain financial support for the building and maintenance of monasteries and shrines. Only twenty-four percent of the population are Hindus. Nevertheless, the main Hindu religious holidays have been declared national holidays. Even the royal family takes these days off to celebrate. The state also fully supports courses of study involving Hindu religion and culture.

 

A Christian reports

 

A Christian from Bhutan, who prefers to remain anonymous, says the following: “Great persecution is taking place in my country at the moment. Christians have to deny Christianity or leave Bhutan, and religious freedom has come to an end. In many cities, Christians are not able to gather together anymore because of their faith. They are not promoted in their work, often lose their jobs for no given reason and are forcefully expelled from our country. Christians’ trade licenses are withdrawn and their welfare payments denied.”

 

Please write to Om Pradhan. Please protest against the discrimination of Christians by sending the following letter:

 

His Excellency

Om Pradhan

UN Reps of Bhutan

2 United Nations Plaza, 27 Floor

New York, NY 10017

USA
 

Your Excellency,

 

We are very concerned to hear about the increasing discrimination and expulsion of Christians in your country.

 

We urgently ask you to use your influence in ensuring the respect of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, which stipulates that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

Place, date,

Signature

 

SOURCE

   

PASTOR ARRESTED : Christian News 12 June 1998

                                                                         

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (USA) -- Christian Aid Mission, which supports indigenous mission agencies around the world, issued an appeal on June 5 on behalf of Bhutanese Christians for prayer for a pastor in that country. The pastor, Kulbahadur Rai, was arrested in Wangdi on May 3 by military police while he was conducting a worship service. The predominant religion of Bhutan is Buddhism, and Christians there are subject to discrimination and persecution. Rai is an ordained minister with a prominent ministry in Wangdi, which may have contributed to the timing of his arrest.  Rai's wife has been barred from visiting him and few details of the charges are known. He apparently is being held for murder, though no victim was identified. According to CAM, "Rai may be presumed to be under torture and inhumane conditions."  Letters of protest may be sent to: His Excellency Jigme Singye Wangchuck, King of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan

 

UCAN Report:  BH0119.0977      Issued on:  May 28, 1998  SOURCE

 

Bhutan  Ucan Feature - Christianity Banned In Bhutan But Christ 'Resides' There By Ajit Paul

 

THIMPHU (UCAN) -- Christ stays at a hotel in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan, although Christianity is forbidden in the Himalayan kingdom where Buddhism is the state religion.  Through Jesuit Father Joseph Kinsley's royal connections, a Catholic chapel was built in the defunct Hotel Dichen and opened in 1995, helping Bhutan's minuscule Catholic community set down roots in the nation. Father Kinley, the first native Bhutanese Catholic priest, is a cousin of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, and the queen mother has "great affection" for him despite his change of religion, according to Chacko Aloysius, an Indian.  "We can call it a royal chapel, although it is Jesuit property," Aloysius, who works for the United Nations in Thimphu, told UCA News in late April. "Hotel Dichen was once famous in Thimphu. Now it has become Christ's residence," he remarked. For three decades before 1995, the Blessed Sacrament could be found in Bhutan, but only in the state-owned residence of Father William Mackey, a Canadian Jesuit who worked in the government's education department.  When Father Mackey died in October 1995 and his home was returned to the government, Christians wanted to keep the Blessed Sacrament.  "That is why the Jesuits bought the (old hotel) property and opened the small chapel," Father Kinsley, who now lives in Darjeeling in northeastern India, told UCA News May 19. Peter Lepcha, the chapel's caretaker, said that he is happy to see "the house of God" the first thing in the morning. "My family is very grateful to God, because we have a good opportunity to serve Jesus," he said.  Every morning, the Lepcha family goes to the chapel and waits for a priest to come from India. "Sometimes it takes several months," Lepcha rued.  Last April, however, was a "golden month," according to the caretaker, the month when Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling, whose diocese includes Bhutan, became the first Catholic bishop to visit Thimphu.     Bishop Lepcha, who had come with a priest on the Sunday after Easter, celebrated Mass that day attended by some 50 Christians. He also administered the Sacrament of Confirmation.  "That was the most joyful day we ever had in our Christian life. We never had such an experience in our lives. We felt that Jesus himself had come to us!" Peter Lepcha recounted.  He related that Bishop Lepcha also promised to consult with the Bishop of Jalpaiguri in eastern India, whose parishes are on the way to Thimphu, to arrange for a priest to visit the Bhutanese capital regularly. Lepcha pointed out that the lack of a Catholic priest has led many Catholics to join Protestant Churches, whose pastors regularly visit the area, and that there are now only six native Bhutanese Catholic families. He noted, however, that although Christianity is banned in the Land of the Thunder Dragon, which has a population of about 2 million, some 10,000 Christians, mostly of Indian and Tibetan origin, work and live there. "We have no problem. So far nobody has questioned us," said Lepcha, though admitting that Christianity cannot be proclaimed openly. Southern Bhutan has a "good number" of Christians who practiced their faith openly till some years back, when officials noticed an elaborate Palm Sunday procession led by a Protestant minister and banned such celebrations, he said. Still, "we are very happy being Christians and being citizens of Bhutan," declared Simon, who runs a shop in Thimphu, which is in the northwest. "We love Jesus and at the same time we love our king too. Christians and Buddhists live together. We do not define ourselves, because we are brothers and sisters. Religion cannot divide us," Simon said.  SOURCE

 

Faith Presbyterian Church Report - Persecuted Church - Bhutan


Bhutan, an underdeveloped country, is moving out of feudalism toward a constitutional monarchy. Bhutan was isolated from the outside world until the communist takeover of China in 1949 forced the country to stop doing business exclusively with Tibet. Christian witness was tightly restricted until 1965. The country stayed open for two decades, until it became obvious that Christianity was making headway. Since a new restrictive atmosphere has taken hold, missions have been allowed to operate only in humanitarian projects on the condition that they not evangelize. Since Bhutan's greatest health problem - leprosy - has been nearly eradicated, missions are scrambling for other reasons to stay. Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, with Hinduism as another recognized religion. The government, with a powerful monarch, subsidizes monasteries and shrines, and supports many of the kingdom's monks. The monks also have official positions on major government bodies. All public worship and evangelism by Christians is illegal. In fact, conversion to a non-approved religion is strictly forbidden. Some Bhutanese are coming to Christ due to the witness of Indian believers visiting Bhutan. In April 1997, a pastor who preached bravely and openly among the mountain tribal people was arrested, thrown in prison and tortured, causing severe head injuries. He died ten days after his release. A prominent local politician lost his job because of his Christian activities. One of Bhutan's greatest needs is a Bible in the Dzongkha language. Pray for workers to translate the word of God for the Dzongkha people. 
SOURCE

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