01/31/2011, 00.00
BHUTAN - NEPAL
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The government of Bhutan refuses to recognize Christian mission

by Nirmala Carvalho
For Tek Nath Rizal, A Bhutanese dissident in exile, there is no formal document or declaration attesting to the news, already reported by many international news agencies. "The past teaches us that such statements are only government propaganda to fool the outside world that Bhutan accepts all religions."

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The recognition of a Christian mission in Bhutan, which was reported in recent days by several international agencies is only a verbal declaration and there is no document attesting to its veracity, Tek Nath Rizal a former royal adviser exiled in Nepal and founder of Bhutanese Freedom Movement reveals to AsiaNews.

"The past - said the dissident - teaches us that such statements are only government propaganda to fool the outside world that Bhutan accepts all religions."

In recent days, many agencies have said the government would allow Christians to register as an organization recognized by the state. The fact would make Christian worship public, and not just private and two Indian Catholic missionary orders have already announced their willingness to open a mission in Bhutan.

Rizal stresses that any subscription or recognition of a Christian organization, however, would not change the current situation of discrimination. "If the authorities want to seriously recognize Christians - the dissident notes - access should be given to the international Christian missions." The simple registration actually implies a close monitoring of activities by the State, which despite the openings in recent years, requires all, except Hindus, to practice Buddhist traditions. The dissident said that at the head of all religious organizations allowed in the country - Buddhism and Hinduism - are the Ngalons, officials directly under the king. To control the compliance of other religions to the dictates imposed by the government they have access to all information relating to community leaders, funding and places of worship. "While any Christian organization - he added - would be overseen by state officials responsible for monitoring their activities and censorship."

Since 2006, the Bhutan government has begun to promote a formal democracy, after centuries of absolute monarchy that prohibited the practice of religions other than Buddhism. The new constitution enacted in 2008 provides for freedom of faith for all Bhutanese, after reporting to the authorities. However, it is forbidden to proselytize, the publication of Bibles, the building of Christian schools and visa permits for religious missionaries. In spite of democracy, the kingdom is continuously accused of human rights violations, especially against political dissidents and ethnic minorities.

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