Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepal's small Catholic community marked Easter night with dozens of baptisms celebrated in various parishes across the country.
Many of the catechumens were Hindus who had encountered the Catholic faith through contact with Catholic educational and charitable organisations and activities, which have expanded since the Hindu monarchy fell in 2008. They were baptised after at least two years during which they studied and learnt about the Christian faith.
"God has given us the grace of his love," said one of the newly baptised, "and this process took more than two years of training in the Catholic faith and culture."
"We were confused and our life revolved around the superstitions of Hindu traditions," he added, "but now we have given our lives a new meaning and shall serve society and the Church."
"I'm happy to see faith grow among the newly baptised," said Bhim Rai, head of the catechists in the diocese of Kathmandu. "For two years, we have educated them and followed them step by step in their journey toward baptism."
However, Rai points out that once baptised, many catechumens often return to their original religion for a variety of reasons: family pressures, poor understanding of Christian culture, or fear.
"For us," he said, "numbers do not count, the quality of conversions does, which must be genuine and start from a real change in the person."
According to the catechist, about 30 to 40 conversions take place each year. "The new generation," he explains, "shows a maturity of faith that is even greater than many people born into Christian families."
This is mainly due to a favourable situation that has in recent years allowed Christians to worship freely, but also to the decline of Hindu religious values and Maoist and Communist ideology. For decades, the latter has been for many young Nepalis a model of freedom.
Christians began enjoying greater religious freedom when Nepal's Hindu monarchy was abolished in 2006, allowing many Catholics to come out of hiding and show their faith in public.
Tired of political instability and excessive cosiness between political and Hindu religious leaders, many have come to consider the Bible as a fundamental document for their education. In fact, the US-based Bible for the World recently reported a boom in Bible sales in Nepal.
According to the census of 2011, Catholics and Protestants represented about 1.5 per cent of the population. In 2006, they were only 0.5 per cent. In six years, Catholics increased from 4,000 to 10,000.
Every Sunday, about 200 non-Catholics attend Mass in the cathedral.