Nepal: Christian homes and church in arson attack

A Nepalese man reads a newspaper as a woman walks in an alley of Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

A church building and the homes of four Christian converts in a Nepal village were set alight on December 23, according to Barnabas Fund.

It is thought that Hindu extremists, who see the growth of Christianity in Nepal as a threat, carried out the attacks which targeted the homes of Ganga Lama Tamang, Lama Bahadur Tamang, Lama Bokta and Bikram Lama.

Though some residents tried to prevent the violent attack, they were powerless to stop the nine arsonists who then went on to target the local church building.

Though physical attacks on Christians are generally an uncommon occurrence in Nepal, this violence follows the murder of a church leader last October. Debelal was killed by a Hindu man who tricked him into believing he wanted prayer before beating the Christian with an iron rod and slitting his throat.

Despite calls from the Christian community for justice, Barnabas Fund reports that the Nepali government has so far played down the recent arson attack.

Reverend CB Gahatraj said: "The authorities are reluctant to meet our requests and are ignoring cases when the victims are Christian.

"Things like this should not happen in a secular nation."

Though there is no official state religion as of 2006, approximately 81 per cent of Nepalese people identify themselves as Hindus and extremist groups including the Nepal Defence Army are calling for the country to return to a Hindu nation.

The 2011 census found that there were fewer than 376,000 Christians in the entire country, but church leaders say the true figure is much higher, at approximately 2.5 million, or 9 per cent of the total population.

The majority of new Christians are Hindu converts, and a change in religion prompts ostracism and discrimination from their communities, sometimes even aggression.

Popular support for Hindu nationalist political parties across the country is growing, which is prompting concerns for the future of Christianity and Christians in Nepal. Following the rise to power of similar groups in India, a huge number of violent attacks against Christians have taken place and there are fears that comparable events will occur in Nepal if these groups are given control.

However, a large right-wing nationalist party, the RPP-N, announced its split on December 2013, which has raised hopes that an anti-Christian political group will not take control of Nepal in the near future.