Date:  September 14, 2023

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 710

extended RLPB: persecution escalates as Hindutva rises
By Elizabeth Kendal

Map of Nepal, showing locations (left to right) of Lumbini Prov., Janakpur, and Dharan.
(click on map to enlarge)

On Monday 4 September anti-Christian (presumed Hindutva [Hindu nationalist]) elements attacked a church in Nawalparasi district, Lumbini Province, which is south-west of Kathmandu, bordering North India’s Uttar Pradesh. Images seen by International Christian Concern (ICC) ‘showed broken windows and other signs of violence around the property, including damage to fencing and a broken motorbike’. ICC reports (5 Sep): ‘Another photo shared on social media showed two men, identified as pastors, being assaulted on the street. Gathered locals appear to have smeared the pastors’ faces with a sticky black substance in an act described by ICC contacts as a cultural sign of hatred and disrespect.’ It was one of two churches to be attacked in the same town in as many days; and it was the seventh attack on a church in Nepal in two weeks. On Tuesday 5 September ICC received news of Christians being assaulted in Janakpur, which is south-east of Kathmandu, bordering North India’s Bihar State. It is also alleged that two men were recently arrested for street preaching in Kathmandu. As one Nepalese leader told ICC, anti-Christian hostility is ‘spreading like wildfire’.

According to Catholic media, the recent wave of persecution was triggered by a video which went viral on social media on 15 August. The video allegedly shows Nepalese tribals eating beef – and filming it, possibly as a form of protest – in a village near Dharan, in eastern Nepal. Hindus regard cows as sacred; and because Hindus are the majority (comprising 81 percent) they been able to use their political power to make slaughtering cows and eating beef illegal in Nepal. Christians, Muslims and tribals protest that it is unjust to enforce Hindu values on non-Hindus, especially in a state that is now officially secular.

Political tensions have been running hot since the November 2022 elections, which resulted in a hung parliament. The result has been the creation of a fractious and fragile multi-party coalition. Relegated to opposition, Hindutva parties are exploiting the political chaos and paralysis to advance the Hindutva cause. Like their Indian mentors and financiers, Nepal’s Hindu nationalists play the religion card and fuel sectarian strife for political gain. None more so than those associated with the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) whose calls for a return to Hindu monarchy and Hindu State grow louder by the day as it seeks to capitalise on widespread political disillusionment.

On 13 February the former King of Nepal, Gyanendra Shah launched a campaign to reinstate Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom. He was joined by his son, former crown prince Paras Shah. Since then, Hindu nationalists have been running regular religious processions during which they chant Hindu slogans and, in the words of RPP Chair Rajendra Lingden, ‘educate the Nepali people about their religion’, by which he means Hinduism! – the implication being that all Nepalis are, by definition, Hindu.

Baptism in Nepal.
Image via Silas G. of  HeartCry Missionary Society

The rise in political tensions coincides with the increased attention being given to the rapid growth of Christianity in the country. It is generally accepted that in 1951 there were no known Christians in Nepal, while by 1961, there were 458. After the fall of the Hindu monarchy (2006) Nepal underwent its own glasnost and perestroika (openness and economic reform). The openness enabled amazing Church growth. Then, in September 2015, Nepal adopted a new constitution [RLPB 325 (30 Sept 2015)]. Article 31 enshrines the right to profess and practise one’s own religion. However, in an addition made to appease Hindutva forces, clause 3 of Article 31 enshrines anti-conversion legislation [details: RLPB 321 (5 Aug 2015)]. Today there are roughly 1.34 million Christians in Nepal (4.4 percent of the population); most are Protestant.

In January 2023, the BBC screened a documentary entitled, ‘Nepal: The battle for souls.’ A narrator opens with what we already know: ‘The Gospel is spreading across Nepal, a Hindu majority nation. Nepal’s Christian community is one of the fastest growing in the world.’ He is then followed by a Hindu nationalist who spells out the problem, as he sees it: “[Christianity] is spreading like wildfire. The fabric of the national unity is at stake. The social harmony is at stake.’ In April, The Organiser (the mouthpiece of India’s Hindu nationalist paramilitary, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)) lamented [speaking of Nepal] that ‘infamous aggressive proselytising has made Christianity as the fastest-growing religion in the Himalayan country'. The author goes on to prophesy doom unless Nepal returns to the ‘political and socio-religious stability’ that was ‘ensured by the Hindu kingdom’ which prevented ‘conversions to Abrahamic faiths’. Any Nepali who is anxious about religious conversions and/or frustrated by the endless political chaos and paralysis would find this message very alluring indeed. On 3 June the government released statistics based on the 2021 Census which confirmed that while Hinduism and Buddhism are in decline, Islam and Christianity are on the rise.

On Saturday 9 September the Hindu religious group ‘Vaidik Sanatan Dharmik Mahasangh’ led a march in Kathmandu to protest cow slaughter and demand Nepal be declared a Hindu State. On Wednesday 13 September the RPP will lead another mass protest in Kathmandu to protest cow slaughter and demand the re-instatement of the Hindu monarchy and the Hindu State. The battle for Nepal is heating up!


  • grant Nepal’s pastors and evangelists – including many South Korean and North-east Indian missionaries – great wisdom (James 1:5) as they navigate the rapidly deteriorating situation. May the Holy Spirit guide them and empower their words as they share the Gospel, defend the faith, promote religious liberty and counter Hindutva propaganda. May the Lord’s purposes prevail! (Proverbs 19:21)
  • comfort, encourage and sustain those pastors and evangelists who have been assaulted, humiliated and arrested in recent weeks. May churches that have been attacked and vandalised receive everything they need to rebuild and replenish.
  • protect the Church against paralysing fear; for 30 million Nepalese still desperately need the ‘living and active’ Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

May our Lord Jesus Christ – who has already overpowered and disarmed the ‘strong man’ (Satan) (Luke 11:14-22) – continue to build his Church in Nepal (Matthew 16:18).