- Title: NEPAL: Minority Christians celebrate Christmas in Kathmandu
- Date: 23rd December 2008
- Summary: KATHMANDU, NEPAL (DECEMBER 21, 2008) (REUTERS) MORNING PRAYERS IN A KATHMANDU CHURCH WITH BELIEVERS SINGING HYMNS WOMAN IN CROWD PRAYING AND SINGING
- Embargoed: 7th January 2009 12:00
- Location: Nepal
- Country: Nepal
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAAZUV1AAHUBIIW11H8DEDL4NB2
- Story Text: Christians in Nepal - a predominantly Hindu nation - are celebrating Christmas freely after years of being forced to worship underground.
Morning prayers to Jesus Christ are said and sang in a church in the middle of Kathmandu - the capital of the predominantly Hindu nation, Nepal.
Christianity was almost banned in the Himalayan county as little as 20 years ago.
But these days, the believers are seen celebrating one of the most important religious days in their calendar - Christmas: the birth of Christ - out on the streets of Kathmandu.
The congregation sing hymns and hand out sweets unlike the past when they had to hide their beliefs.
One person to witness the dramatic change is journalist Yubaraj Ghimire.
"The presence and free movement and free religious activities is clearly visible. And I think, there is also a kind of possibility that you know like Hindu groups might come out openly with the Hindu agenda in retaliation to these kind of activities," he said.
Previously, any evangelizing or even handing out information about church services were banned.
More so, people who wanted to convert to Christianity were looked upon as working against the state and many were put into jail.
Senior pastor Suman Gurung of The Nepal Christian Society said 29 people were imprisoned in various parts of the country before the People's Movement of 1990, which brought an end to absolute monarchy and began the constitutional democracy, for participating in the publicity of Christianity.
"We are not openly we could say that we are Christians (sic). So we have to hide ourselves and very carefully we have to do our church services singing songs, preaching gospels - we have to do very carefully, secretly during those times because police and government people were here and there to watch us and you know to see Christian people, and whenever they find Christian people they used to report against us," Gurung said of the times when they were oppressed.
The interim government came into power after the popular 1990 movement allowed the Christian community, like other religions, to publicly function freely.
But Nepal's Christians now face another problem.
"We are dealt as a second class citizen, so this kind of challenges we are facing right now," said Gurung.
Even though the current situation is not as ideal as they would like, the believers are still thankful that they can now worship freely.
"There was a time when we had to live underground, were not allowed to express our feelings and say anything to others and had to bear various types of allegations," said a church member, Beni Karki.
Despite the odds, the number of Christians in Nepal has grown over the years.
Many are attracted to the church's faith healing, as well as their efforts to help the poor.
Today, the population of Christians in Nepal stands at one million according to Pastor Gurung.
With each passing Christmas, the Birth of Christ is celebrated more freely, and these days a few shops are starting to sell Christmas decorations.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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