Nepal
Kingdom of Nepal
August 23-24
Asia


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 147,181 sq.km. A mountain-ringed Himalayan state between China (Tibet) and India. It contains 8 of the 10 highest mountain peaks in the world.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 23,930,490 +2.38% 163 per sq. km.
2010 29,715,459 +2.12% 202 per sq. km.
2025 38,010,174 +1.37% 258 per sq. km.

Capital Kathmandu 1,500,000. The city has doubled in size during the 1990s. Urbanites 14%.

PEOPLES

Indo-Aryan 79%. 27 peoples. Mainly south and east. Largest: Nepali 12 mill.; Maithili 2.85m; Bhojpuri 1.79m; Tharu(6) 1.29m; Awadhi 483,000; Urdu 261,000; Hindi 220,000; Rajbansi 110,000.

Tibeto-Burman 17%. 68 peoples, mainly in north and west. Largest groups: Tamang 1.17m; Newari 892,000; Rai(10) 567,000; Magar 558,000; Limbu 328,000; Gurung(4) 294,000; Sherpa 158,000.

Munda-Santal 0.3%. 2 peoples.

Other 3.7%. Bhutan refugees 150,000; Indians, Tibetans.

Caste groups are important in this largely Hindu society. These are often more important sociologically than is ethnicity. Some groups: Chhetri 3.8m; Hill Brahman 3.1m; Magar 1.7m; Maki/Lohar 1.2m; Yadav/Ahir 1m; Musalman (Muslim) 850,000; Chamar 263,000.

Literacy 40%. Official language Nepali. All languages 124. Languages with Scriptures 6Bi 11NT 9por 12w.i.p.

ECONOMY

An isolated subsistence economy. The terrain is difficult and in habitable regions there is a high population density with rapid deforestation and ecological damage. The development of roads, agriculture and social projects has been slow. Main foreign exchange earners are tourism, agriculture and Gurkha soldiers. Heavily dependent on foreign aid and good relations with India. HDI 0.463; 144th/174. Public debt 48% of GNP. Income/person $220 (0.7% of USA) with 42% living below the poverty line.

POLITICS

Nepal was never ruled by colonial powers. Political isolation from the outside world ended in 1951. In 1962, the King assumed executive power in a government system with no political parties. Massive civil unrest in 1990 brought about extensive liberalization and multi-party elections. The 1990s were characterized by a succession of short-lived coalition governments in a time of difficulty. The Congress Party formed a majority government in 2000. Poverty and official corruption have been factors in provoking Maoist extremist terrorism in some areas since 1996. The assassination of most of the royal family in 2001 seriously destabilized the country.

RELIGION

The world's only Hindu Kingdom. Hinduism is recognized as the national religion, but the constitution guarantees some religious freedom for other faiths. People are free to choose their religion but it is illegal to convert others. Any infringing of this is liable to lead to imprisonment for nationals or expulsion of foreigners. Official religion figures of the 1991 census are suspect with minority religions under-represented. Persecution Index 42nd in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Hindu 74.82 17,904,793 +2.0%
Buddhist 16.00 3,828,878 +2.4%
Muslim 5.00 1,196,525 +4.6%
Christian 1.89 452,286 +16.1%
Other religions 1.70 406,818 +2.4%
non-Religious/other 0.50 119,652 +7.1%
Sikh 0.06 14,358 +6.2%
Baha'i 0.03 7,179 +2.4%

The boundary between Hinduism and Buddhism is not distinct; Buddhists are officially 7.8%, Muslims 3.5%, Christians 0.17%.

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 15 0.59 141 +26.2%
Independent 27 1.22 292 +19.6%
Roman Catholic 1 0.05 12 +19.1%
Marginal 6 0.01 2 +15.6%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Adherents
Independent Congs I 600 45,000 90,000
Ntnl Chs Fell of N (NCFN) I 260 28,000 60,000
Foursquare Gospel P 600 36,667 55,000
Assemblies of God P 315 29,000 54,000
Pentecostal Ch of N I 300 25,000 37,000
Evangelical Chr Fell. of N I 120 8,333 20,000
Believers Church (GFA) I 200 8,000 18,000
Agape Fellowship I 52 6,000 15,000
Catholic C 30 8,392 12,000
Nepal Bapt Chr Council P 65 7,500 12,000
Evang Alliance Ch of N I 40 4,800 12,000
Assemblies (El Shaddai) P 40 3,500 7,000
Emmanuel Ch Assoc. I 32 3,400 5,200
Lord's Assemblies I 13 2,000 5,000
Presbyterian Ch Council P 19 3,000 5,000
Eastern Nepal Charis.Fell. I 22 2,200 4,700
Seventh-day Adventist P 5 785 1,500
Other denoms [37]   331 16,000 33,400
Total Christians [54]   3,044 237,700 446,800

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 1.6 376 +23.6%
Charismatic 1.2 284 +25.3%
  Pentecostal 0.7 158 +23.7%

Missionaries from Nepal
P,I,A 746 in 13 agencies to 4 countries: Nepal 710, India 33.

Expatriates to Nepal
P,I,A 717 in 90 agencies from 30 countries: UK 149, USA 125, Germany 48, Korea 47, Australia 32, Norway 30.


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Answers to Prayer

1 The opening up of Nepal. No Christian was officially allowed to live in Nepal before 1960. By 1990 there was a measure of religious freedom to worship, but not to proselytize.

2 The thrilling growth of the Church. The first group was formed in 1959 with 29 Christians. By 1985 there were about 50,000 believers. At the climax of persecution in 1990 there were 200,000. By 2000 there were 400,000; some estimate even 500,000 in 3,000 or more congregations! The secret: prayer, willingness to suffer for Jesus, dynamic Nepali initiative in evangelism and church planting, and God's miracle-working power.

3 There is a church planted in every one of the 75 districts of Nepal and there are at least some believers in most peoples and caste groups of the country.

4 Increased unity after some difficult years during the 1990s. The Nepal Christian Society was formed in 1996 as a coordinating fellowship for Evangelicals.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The country needs political stability and continuity of government after the first tempestuous decade of democracy which culminated in the assassination of the Royal Family. Pray for the new King crowned in 2001 – he has neither the stature nor the popularity of the former king. Pray also for peace – civil war threatens. Pray for an honest, balanced, fair government that is able to seriously tackle the immense economic problems of the country. The poverty of most of the population is a fundamental issue.

2 Religious freedom has increased, but is still only partial. Persecution from the authorities was greatly reduced in 1990 with the advent of democracy. All Christian prisoners were released and all pending court cases against over 300 Christians were dismissed. Over the 1990s there have been a number of Christians who have been arrested, imprisoned or even murdered in custody for seeking to preach to Hindus. Increasing Hinduist persecution of Christians in India is impacting official attitudes. Militant Hinduists in Nepal are targeting Christians with virulent propaganda and violence which aims to drive all Christians from the country. Pray for:

a) Full religious freedom to be both guaranteed in the constitution and upheld by the authorities.

b) The thwarting of the designs of the extremists and for their eyes to be opened to the Lord Jesus.

3 The Church in Nepal has flourished in the midst of pressure as a remarkable indigenous movement. It has grown in numbers, diversity and maturity, but with growth and greater freedom there are issues which need prayer:

a) Denominationalism – many foreign-based denominations as well as indigenous networks of churches have been established. Pray that the Church may be kept from divisions, doctrinal disputes and error. Pray specifically for the Nepal Christian Society (NCS) as it seeks to provide a forum for prayer, sharing, unity and cooperative ministries.

b) Persecution, though less severe than in the 1980s, is still real. This is not only from the Hinduist extremist movements but also socially from families and communities and, in some areas, from the Maoist guerrillas. Pray for grace and perseverance for believers and that Christians may be accepted and appreciated for their contribution to the country's well-being. Pray also for efforts by the NCS and others engaged in securing the legal and religious rights of Christians with regard to arbitrary arrests, evangelism, property, discrimination, etc.

c) Partnership between churches and foreign agencies. Support in finance and personnel is appreciated, but all too often there has been inadequate local cooperation and communication. Remote control through finance has serious moral and spiritual consequences. Pray for wisdom and sensitivity for all parties involved.

4 Vision for the future:

a) The two HIM-COE conferences of 1996 and 1998 brought together most Nepali Christian leaders and others serving in the Himalayas. These conferences helped to consolidate various visions for church planting and leadership training over the whole region. The Himalayan Ministries partnership was formed linking national and international churches and agencies to reach Nepalis world-wide through prayer, research, outreach and literature.

b) The Sowers Ministry is a Nepali-founded mission agency, now headquartered in Hong Kong but with over 100 workers in 8 lands.

Pray that many Nepalis may be challenged, called, equipped and sent out by local churches to Nepal, the Himalayan region, needy North India and beyond.

5 The first generation of Nepali leaders laid a good foundation. Pray for:

a) Effective transfer of leadership to a second generation.

b) Men and women of vision who are filled with the Holy Spirit for the task ahead. For many, ministry will be arduous and will provide little to live on.

c) Leadership training. For years no formal training was possible. There are now over 13 Bible colleges and seminaries, as well as shorter-term training, provided by various churches and agencies. Most are linked with the Association of Theological Educators, Nepal. GFA has three centres from which 100 Nepali evangelist-missionaries graduate annually.

6 The social challenges for Christian ministry. Both Nepali Christians and foreign agencies have done much to minister to the uplift of the nation with short and long-term social services – giving much opportunity for showing Christian values and love in:

a) Alleviating poverty – only 15% of the population has access to electricity. Much is done in education, job creation enterprises, water purification, etc., by Christians.

b) Confronting the continuing evils of caste discrimination (despite it being illegal), the widespread use of bond slavery and child labour (500,000 economically active under 14 years). Parliament passed the Child Labour Act in March 2000, pray for its widespread implementation.

c) Opposing the trafficking of Nepali girls for the Indian and Middle East 'sex' industry which is a terrible evil. There are an estimated 250,000 in India (mainly Mumbai) where they are terribly abused; 60-70% are HIV+ and few will reach 25 years. Nepali Christians are seeking to reach and rescue some of these unfortunates in Mumbai.

d) Providing health services. Over 20% of hospitals and clinics, and nearly all of leprosy control work are Christian-run (TLM, UMN, INF, others). The looming crisis of the AIDS pandemic will soon overwhelm the health services. There were 45,000 sufferers in 2000 (an underestimate).

7 The less reached. Many peoples and castes are only marginally reached. Pray for:

a) The influential high-caste Brahmin and Chhetri (Rajput). Pride, idol worship, fear and demonic bondage keep many from openly coming to Christ. Yet in contrast to India, a significant number have done so.

b) The Awadhi and Maithili of the Terai lowlands on the Indian border. Few of them have heard the gospel and these few have been unresponsive. The Tharu are more animist than Hindu; many little churches are springing up among them.

c) The Mountain peoples – almost entirely Tibetan-related. Most are lamaistic Buddhists living in isolated mountain communities, such as the Loba people of Mustang. Most are small in number and Christians are few. There are an increasing number of believers among the Sherpa of the Mt. Everest area.

d) Tibetan refugees – long unreached; now there is a steady trickle of people seeking the Lord and several congregations among them.

e) The increased numbers of Muslims. Many are Bengali, Kashmiri or Urdu-speaking traders. Only about 20 Muslim-background believers are known. There is no focused outreach to them.

f) University students. There are 100,000 students in 3 universities on 150 campuses. In 1996 NBCBS (IFES) had 25 groups, but most students remain unreached.

8 Missions have played a remarkable supportive role in improving health, agriculture and education. Relationships with the government can be delicate, and visa applications are carefully screened. Pray for wisdom and grace for leaders and missionaries, and for the entry of called workers. Pray for radiance of life and continued freedom to share the gospel in all contacts with Nepalis as the medical workers minister in hospitals, dispensaries, leprosy and health programmes, and others in education institutions. The United Mission to Nepal is the largest body representing 50 agencies from 20 or more countries. The International Nepal Fellowship has 80 workers (from 10 seconding agencies and 12 nations) mainly in the west of Nepal. Human Development and Community Services is an indigenous mission agency that is taking on an increasing number of projects in close cooperation with churches and missions. There has been significant input from at least 12 Indian evangelical agencies; GFA has placed 152 missionaries around the country.

9 Nepalis who have migrated temporarily for work or permanently in large numbers to India, the Himalayan region and beyond, may total 10 million.

a) In India, Sikkim state is 75% Nepali and Darjeeling District in West Bengal is 60% Nepali. Bhutan is 40% ethnic Nepali. Numerous Nepali churches have come into being; pray for their growth and greater involvement in cross-cultural outreach.

b) In Bhutan, Nepalis have suffered discrimination, and in 1991 many were expelled and now live as refugees in UN camps in south-east Nepal where they are spiritually and economically deprived. There are some churches among them.

c) Many Nepalis serve as Gurkha soldiers in the British, Brunei and Indian armies. Many others serve as security guards from the Middle East to East Asia. Among them there are some Christian groups. Pray for effective outreach to them.

10 Other help ministries for which prayer is requested:

a) Bible translation is in progress in 12 languages, but practical and spiritual obstacles to their completion are many, one being the low literacy and lack of literacy programmes in local languages. Pray for all who are committed to complete these projects. There are 83 languages without any Scriptures at all and 16 for which there is a definite need for translation.

b) The Bible Society's ministry has expanded after years of great difficulties. Distribution of Scriptures, especially the New Testament in Nepali, has mushroomed. The International Bible Society has also opened up ministry.

c) Christian literature can now be freely printed and distributed without censorship, though there have been problems with importation. Pray for The Bible Society bookshop in Kathmandu, OM and GFA publishing house and literature distribution teams, and EHC's ambitious house-to-house literature campaigns with many mobilized. The latter has covered all Nepal and has started over again. Pray that these burgeoning literature ministries may enhance spiritual and church growth.

d) Cassette tapes are a useful evangelistic and teaching tool, but players are not widely available. GRN has recorded 101 languages and dialects.

e) Bible correspondence courses have long been a key means of outreach, but the programme lacks funds and personnel to continue effectively. The response since 1990 overwhelmed the resources of the three correspondence schools. There were 50,000 students in 1995, leading to many new churches.

f) Christian radio. Some local programmes are broadcast on special Christian occasions. GFA has been an indigenous broadcasting agency for the past 10 years receiving significant response. TWR broadcasts 5.5 hrs/week from Russia, and FEBA 30 minutes. There are reception and publicity problems which limit the listenership.

g) The JESUS film has been widely used and about 25% of the population have viewed it in 6 languages. The film is being dubbed in a further 17 languages. The Indian-produced film Daya Sagar, on the life of Jesus, is popular among non-Christians.

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