Nepali Christians Among Those Fearing Breakdown

Nation Threatened by Crisis Amid Failure to Draft Constitution

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KATHMANDU, Nepal, MAY 19, 2010 ( The apostolic pro-vicar of Nepal is with his countrymen in calling for a political solution to the country’s impending crisis. The priest in the Hindu-majority nation is appealing to Our Lady to intercede for peace.

Nepal ended in 2006 a violent civil war between Maoist extremists and government forces; two years later it held a historic election, ending the rule of monarchs and becoming a federal democratic republic.

The Maoists were voted to form part of the coalition government but in May 2009, resigned over a conflict with the president. And the government formed in 2008 has only till next week to fulfill its mandate of drafting a constitution. There appears to be no chance they will make the deadline, which will leave the country in limbo since the government’s mandate will also end.

Earlier this month, Maoists shut down the country with a six-day strike calling for the resignation of the prime minister and saying they won’t negotiate on a constitution until then.

In the midst of the chaos, the tiny Christian minority (Nepal is 80% Hindu, 10% Buddhist and 4% Muslim) is appealing for the renewal of negotiations.

Father Pius Perumana, the apostolic pro-vicar, was able to prevent the Maoist protesters from installing themselves in the Cathedral of the Assumption during the strike. In the end, an appeal was made to the police to prevent an attempt at intrusion by force.

Certain establishments, however, had to receive the militants: Hindu and Jain temples, and also some Protestant churches. Catholic schools also reported intimidation from Maoists who asked for financial contributions to sustain their political action.

«For the moment, everything is unfolding peacefully, but the situation can degenerate at any moment,» Father Perumana told the Fides news agency before the strike ended. «We ask the Virgin Mary to intercede for peace, so that blood won’t be shed, so that our leaders will be enlightened to find a political solution to the crisis.»

Separation of religion and government

David Griffiths, South Asian team leader of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a group for the defense of religious liberties, also called for negotiations, particularly to keep Nepal from returning to a Hindu state.
“We are concerned that the new constitution declaring Nepal to be a secular state should enshrine religious rights,” he told UCA News on May 4. “Some groups are seeking a return to the former status of a Hindu state but the Maoists are committed to a secular state. The whole process has been thrown into jeopardy by the recent action and we hope they will return to the negotiating table and introduce a secular constitution giving proper protection to religious freedom.”

Last April 20, numerous Catholic and Protestant associations, Buddhist representatives and leaders of several political parties organized a meeting in Kathmandu to request that the new secular character of the Nepali state be preserved.

Chari Bahadur Ghahatraj of the Christian Consultative Committee for the New Constitution called for the constitution to protect minorities, UCA News reported: «We want the guarantee of a secular state. Let the leaders voice that here and now.»

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