|Kingdom of Nepal|
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.
Capital Kathmandu 1,500,000. The city has doubled in size during the 1990s. Urbanites 14%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The boundary between Hinduism and Buddhism is not distinct; Buddhists are officially 7.8%, Muslims 3.5%, Christians 0.17%.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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