(AsiaNews) - The Nepali government will guarantee the rights of the country's Christian
community as well as their representation in the institutions of the state. This
pledge is contained in a six-point agreement signed by the Nepal Christian Federation and Nepali
authorities. However, Catholic and Protestant leaders have doubts about its implementation.
For some, it is but a ploy by political parties to win minority votes in case
of an election to a new constituent assembly. The
one elected in 2008 was dissolved on Monday when it failed to ratify the new
first point of agreement paper states, "The government will take
initiatives to ensure the rights and development of the Christian community." The
second point says that the government will soon formulate policy on public
holidays without discrimination for Christians. At present, they can celebrate
Christmas, which is already a public holiday, but they also want to have other
celebrations recognised so that they are not discriminates in the workplace if
they do not work on that day.
the third point states, the government promises to protect Christian
properties, including churches and other related assets. According to the
fourth point, the government pledges to ensure proportional representation for
the Christian community in all of its institutions, including parliament.
agreement on its fifth point entails the establishment of an Action Group to
implement the agreement reached by the parties. The last point of agreement ensures
Christian rights are protected under the new Constitution.
Chirendra Satyal, a representative of the Nepal Catholic Church, told AsiaNews, "People are fed up with
politicians and changing governments. Most Christians are unsure whether the
government will implement this agreement fairly nor not."
Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, secretary of the Federation representing Protestant
Churches in Nepal, "We were historically marginalised in the Hindu dominated
country. Although the country is secular now, we are still pushed to the
sideline. The government must implement this agreement." If not, "We
will take some serious measures if the government fails to meet our demands."
home to about 150,000 Christians, including 8,000 Catholics. With the collapse
of the Hindu monarchy in 2006 and the establishment of a secular state, Christians
were able to enjoy greater freedom of worship.
by Hindus is commonplace, conversions are increasing. According to figures from
Kathmandu's Catholic cathedral, some 200 non-Catholics attend Mass every
the provisional constitution grants each Nepali citizen the right to profess
any creed, majority Hindus have tried to prevent conversions. Hinduism still
exerts a great deal of influence in the country and among the authorities. In fact,
a year ago, parliament began examining changes to the penal code that would ban
changing religion and handing out religious literature, with sentences of up to
five years in jail.
With the failure
of Maoist-led constituent assembly to approve the new constitution, Nepal now
finds itself on the cusp of economic, political and institutional chaos. The country
could implode with clashes between ethnic groups. Religious minorities could
end up drawn into the confrontation.
So far, the
Supreme Court has resisted attempts by the Maoist government to organise new
elections in November. Opposition parties are pushing instead for the
resignation of Prime Minister Baburan Bhattharai. If he quits, he would be the
fourth premier to give up since 2009.