03/17/2014, 00.00
NEPAL
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Young converts to Catholicism are real "engine of evangelisation"

by Christopher Sharma
After decades of social and political discrimination, thousands of people are turning to the Church and to Christians, seen as happy people who live a life committed to spreading the Gospel. Despite problems, "our real challenge is to reach as many people as possible to share with them the importance of God's grace," says priest in the capital.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Young Nepalis who converted to Catholicism are "the real, big engine of evangelisation," said Bhim Rai, a catechist in the Diocese of Kathmandu. "They actively contribute to society and live a full and happy life. Many of them are committed to spreading the Word of God in the population and I am happy and proud of them," he added.

For him, the interest the country is showing in Christianity constitutes a "positive wave". Conversely, "In the past, when the country was a Hindu monarchy, Catholics lived with the fear of being marginalised," newly converted Dipak Thapa told AsiaNews, "but today we are a secular nation and this fear is no more."

"For me, conversion has been a privilege, because now I can work to spread the Gospel and help build the Kingdom of God."

"Catholic families can now live in peace, strong in their vocation, but there are thousands of other people, especially young people, who lack strong values." And "The challenge," he explained, "is to convey God's grace to the poor, the oppressed and the needy".

Reena Tamang is a college student. She is also studying the catechism and will soon be baptised. Her conversion is a daily call. Yet, "Thousands of women and girls live without the opportunity of knowing Jesus," she said.

"I am convinced that God wanted me in his plan," she explained, "and so I am happy to share my experience with fellow students and neighbours. In Nepal, a lot of people still believe in superstitions, but if we can expand their horizons we can do great things."

Nepal is home to approximately 150,000 Christians, including 8,000 Catholics. Before the fall of the monarchy in 2006, Hinduism was the state religion and affected the lives of every citizen.

The establishment of a secular state brought religious freedom, but minorities, especially Christians, still experience harassment and threats from the majority.

Discrimination, violence against women and marginalisation of the poor are major issues for Hindus as well. However, many of them, and occasionally Buddhists, claim that Catholics and other Christians convert people by force or by offering them money.

"I am proud to work in Nepal," said Fr Richard Rai, the priest in charge of pastoral care at Kathmandu Cathedral. "We have so many responsibilities because so many people are willing to listen to the teachings of Christ."

"Nepalis are a warm and friendly people, interested in learning about the Gospels. Problems notwithstanding, our real challenge is to reach as many people as possible to share with them the importance of God's grace in everyone's life."

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