Kathmandu cancels Card Filoni’s visit over security concerns
by Christopher Sharma
The prefect of Propaganda Fide was set to arrive tomorrow. His schedule included visits with earthquake survivors and civil society groups. An anonymous source said the visit was cancelled because the prelate’s security could not be guaranteed. Proposed territorial divisions are the cause of ongoing protests as minorities feel the government is unresponsive to their demands.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepali authorities cancelled a planned visit by Card Fernando Filoni, prefect of Propaganda Fide, just a few hours before his arrival.

Since “The authorities and ministers are engaged in constitutional discussion, a visit would be inappropriate,” a government spokesman said. However, an anonymous source told AsiaNews that the visit was cancelled due to tensions in the country.

Card Filoni was set to arrive in Nepal tomorrow, as part of an international tour that took him to India today and in Bangladesh before that.

When news of the visit became public, Nepali Catholics expressed their appreciation. Plans were made for the prefect to travel to camps housing the survivors from the terrible earthquake that hit the country on 25 April. During his stay, he wanted to meet local Catholics and other Nepalis.

"We asked the Vatican to postpone the visit because the government is busy in the constitutional process, which has sparked unwanted protests and demonstrations,” government spokesman Minendra Rijal said.

In June, a draft proposal was presented to the Constituent Assembly. Since then, the country’s Madhese and Tharu minorities have been engaged in violent protests over its terms.

As a result, the government deployed the army to restore calm in the Terai, Nepal’s southern plain region, where most minorities live.

Leaders of the two ethnic groups want a different territorial division than the one drawn up by the larger parties.

"The cardinal was invited, but given the situation we could not guarantee his security,” an anonymous senior government official said.

“Security forces are facing off demonstrators who demand their own autonomous region. Even ministers have been warned not to travel to high-risk regions.” For this reason, “we have called off the visit.”

Everyone, ministers included, are involved in the last discussions in the Constituent Assembly, which is proving very divisive. This is pushing many young people to emigrate.

Rajkumar Lekhi, a Tharu community leader, "The government is not ready for dialogue; it is just pretending”.

 “We will not sit for talks if the Constituent Assembly is not postponed. We will intensify our protest and will not let it [the government] implement the new constitution. We can’t accept it,” he warned.