04/03/2012, 00.00
NEPAL
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Christians celebrate Easter without fear for the first time

by Kalpit Parajuli
The government adopts important security measures to protect churches and places of worship. Holy Week preparations are underway in the capital's Assumption Cathedral. The diocese organises an exhibit of sacred objects to help the poor and family stricken by the economic crisis.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Kathmandu's small Catholic community is preparing to celebrate Easter for the first time without fear of attacks from Hindu extremists. As it did for last year's Christmas celebrations, the Nepali government has adopted important security measures to protect Catholic and Protestant churches and places of worship.

Bhim Rai, a catechist in Kathmandu's Assumption parish, said that the entire community is taking part in the organisation of the solemn celebrations, especially Easter Mass, which should see more than a thousand people participate.

Since the fall of the Hindu monarchy in 2006 and establishment of a secular state, Nepal Christians have enjoyed greater freedom of worship and expression.

Over the years, the number of Christians has risen and now stands at around 2 million. Even the small Catholic community has expanded to include 9,000 members. This year, eight catechumens will be baptised on Easter Sunday. Last year, they were nine.

Although Catholics are a tiny minority, they are getting stronger in both numbers and faith, Rai said. "The past 20 years, not one baptised person went back on his or her decision," he explained. "In our community, most members are faithful, follow Church teachings and try to bear witness to the Gospel in daily life."

This year, in addition to Holy Week celebrations, the Diocese of Kathmandu organised an exhibit of sacred objects, paintings and hand-made games to help the poor and families in need.

The show will be held on the premises of Assumption Cathedral and will be open for the Easter period.

Nepal's 2 million-strong Protestants have organised a series of events across the country.

In the capital, thousands of people are expected at a big rally planned to push for the constitutional protection of religious freedom. The final draft of the constitution is expected to be approved by 25 May.

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