10/12/2012, 00.00
NEPAL
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For Nepali lawmakers, "spiritual desertification" is holding back the secular state

by Kalpit Parajuli
After a decade of civil war, the Himalayan nation is still without a constitution. Political parties remain far apart, each defending its narrow interests. As the pope said in opening the Year of Faith, spirituality is an essential and necessary factor in politics. Some hope the Hindu festival of Dashain might lead to an agreement among the factions.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - As evoked by Pope Benedict XVI, "spiritual desertification" and the "drying up of faith" are among the main causes of Nepal's political stalemate and the parties' failure to agree on a constitution. National political leaders agree that the failure to achieve a consensus on renewing the nation through power sharing and the separation of state and religion is due to "spiritual desertification".

During the celebrations of the start of the Year of Faith, the pope stressed the importance of faith and spirituality as foundational aspects in people's lives. They are essential factors in politics as well to determine the appropriate divisions of powers and shared values.

However, personal interests and ideological divisions, which have increased in recent months, have dashed hopes that Nepal might adopt a secular constitution for the republic that was born in May 2008 after a decade of civil war.

"Most of the leaders are becoming egocentric and self-centred," Ram Chandra Poudel, a Hindu and a senior leader in the Nepali Congress, told AsiaNews. This heightens mutual distrust and suspicion. However, becoming "honest to people and honest to God may be the point for mutual trust and honesty among us."

Maoist Agni Sapkota said he hoped the deities and the upcoming great Hindu festival of Dashain might help parties reach a political agreement.

Bamdev Gautman, vice chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) noted that although today "many Maoist leaders are practicing Hindus," during the years of struggle they promoted campaigns against religious movements and prevented others from worshiping. For this reason, "Hindus see Maoists as hard-core atheists."

He too hopes that the month of Dashain (the most important and extravagant Hindu festival) will enable leaders to "hammer out our differences" because four months of stalemate since May over the constitution have undermined Nepalis' hope for a stable secular state.

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