By Worthy News Asia Service with reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
KATHMANDU, NEPAL (Worthy News)– A Christian advocacy group said Thursday, June 3, that Nepal's churches are experiencing "unprecedented growth" despite reported political turmoil and persecution.
U.S.-based International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that an increasing number of people turn to Christianity in Nepal at a time when the Asian nation faces turmoil, including a strike by the Maoist party.
"Nepal lost electricity, water and transportation," during that six-day general strike, ICC said. The organization cited research from mission group Build International Ministries (BIM) as proof that the Nepali churches grew from a handful in the 1950's to denominations with over 100,000 active members today.
"Churches are growing by leaps and bounds everywhere," amid difficulties, added BIM President Sandy Anderson, who spent the last 25 years working with Christians in Nepal. "We have had a heavy transition in Nepal, but despite the difficult situation the church continues to thrive."
His comments referred to the overthrow of the country's long-ruling Hindu monarchy in 2006, ending a ten year Maoist insurgency. Last year, Maoists withdrew from the coalition government however over a political dispute.
Following Maoist strikes, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal agreed to step down in exchange for Maoists concessions, but both sides are blaming each other for failing to meet terms of the agreement. Christians have reportedly rallied to express their desire for both religious freedom and dialogue between opposing sides.
Over 25,000 Christians gathered on the streets of the capital Kathmandu for "an unprecedented celebration" of Easter Sunday, ICC added.
Separately, on May 23, the anniversary of a deadly 2009 church bombing, Christians rallied to "express forgiveness" toward their attackers, the group explained.
"The persecution has driven the people in the church to their knees…The position of Christians is it doesn't matter who is in power. Christians are not so much involved in politics, but they are heavily involved in praying for the people in politics," Anderson stressed in a released statement. "Yes, there are threats…There is persecution, torture, and intimidation. Any time you become a Christian you face immediate persecution, even from your own family members," he said.
ICC’s Regional Manager Logan Maurer said the reported growth of the Nepali church "despite uncertainty and persecution… remains an example to churches worldwide."