09/03/2013, 00.00
NEPAL
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Kathmandu: Christians have no right to a cemetery

by Kalpit Parajuli
The measure, which was to "preserve the sanctity of the soil near the Hindu shrine of Pashupatinath" compels a minority to seek burial sites concealed in the forest or near the rivers. Christian leader: "We fear that the Nepalese Hindu faith profane our graves." The government does not respond to the requests of the faithful.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Christian communities in Kathmandu are being forced to bury their dead outside official cemeteries. Local sources told AsiaNews that "since the government has banned the construction of a cemetery near the Hindu shrine of Pashupatinath, Christians and other religious minorities in the country must perform their funeral rites in forests, near rivers, away from population centres and places under the control of Hindu radicals."

Two years ago, city authorities decided to "protect" the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath from the presence of other religions, preventing Nepalis from other religious groups from carrying out their funeral rites near the sanctuary.

"It was decided to protect the sacredness of Hindu land," said Sushil Nahata, a member of the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT). "In some areas, cemeteries were expanding in an unregulated manner. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that Christians are given specific and separate areas."

As a result of government action, religious minorities in the Kathmandu Valley found themselves forced to bury their dead in hidden places, far from population centres, with the risk of desecration by some Hindu groups.

Between April and May 2011, members of the Christian community in the capital went on a hunger strike that lasted for 39 days. This led to the establishment of a 16-member committee, which includes the minister for Peace and Reconciliation, the minister of Culture and Tourism as well Christian leaders, whose task is to find a solution to the dispute.

However, in spite of the pressure from the religious minority, Nepali authorities have always preferred to stall or when they did give something, it was always very little.

Indeed, Culture Minister Ram Kumar Shreshatha noted that "the government is very close to granting the Christian community a burial ground," but so far the deadline set by the Committee has come and gone with nothing done.

"If promises prove untrue, Christians (who make up 1 .4 per cent of the Nepali population) will be forced to launch a new wave of nationwide protests," said a still hopeful C.B. Gahatrai.

 

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