Concern for Future of Christians in Nepal

Following June 1 Massacre of Royal Family

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ROME, JUNE 19, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Christians in Nepal face a murky future in the wake of the June 1 massacre of the royal family, says a report.

King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya and almost the entire Shah dynasty died during a shooting by Crown Prince Dipendra at a family dinner. The prince then killed himself, authorities said.

«The last king was a person who favored democracy, and for this reason had nothing against Christians,» Sarla Mahara, representative of Christian Aid Mission in Nepal, told the Michigan-based Mission Network News.

The situation is far more unstable now, including for Christians, Mahara said.

Maoist rebels battling the government in western Nepal could take advantage of the situation to grab more power, the observer said.

«The present government is totally confused with the new king who, in my opinion, favors a hard line,» Mahara explained. «He is not much in favor of democracy.»

Since the 1990 democratic revolution, measures have been implemented in support of religious liberty in this southern Asia nation of 24.7 million. Over the past decade, the number of Christians has grown tenfold, though they only constitute 2% of the population.

Nepal´s Constitution theoretically guarantees the practice of all religions, but dictates fines and arrests for proselytism and conversion to any religion other than Hinduism. Such punishments were rare in recent years.

Aid to the Church in Need, in its «Report 2000 on Religious Liberty in the World,» notes the growth of Hindu fundamentalist groups, which in recent years have acted violently, especially against Protestant Christians.

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