14th February, 2018
Kathmandu, Critics allege It Is not just caste discrimination leading several Dalits in Nepal to flip off from Hindu beliefs and become Christians
“My next child died from tuberculosis at only six months. I am still haunted by it,” Sunar states, sitting out her real block hut in town of Thakaldanda, in southern Nepal’s Makwanpur district.
When she became pregnant again, Sunar sought out an unlikely remedy. Rather than call the local shamans, as she had done before, she joined a church.
The 35-year-old, a Hindu, converted to Christianity and gave birth to a healthy daughter, and later a son. “They are my gifts from God,” she says.
It is a story repeated across Thakaldanda, a village of about 50 households. “There’s a church here, and another church there, and another over there,” says Kajiman BK, who converted to Christianity after surviving an unknown disease.
It’s a story repeated across Thakaldanda. “There is a church, and yet another church, and another around,” states Kajiman BK, that converted to Christianity after living an unknown illness.
It isn’t simply survival tales which Sunar and Kajiman have in common.
It’s Dalits, and other marginalised groups, that are directing a spike in the development of Christianity in Nepal. Over a thousand people in Nepal recognize as Christians, and the nation has among the fastest growing Christian populations on the planet.
Nepal, previously the only Hindu country in the world, became a secular republic after the 10-year civil war, and also the collapse of the monarchy in 2008. Hinduism remains the nation’s dominant religion, but the transition into secularism opened up space for different religions, although proselytising is outlawed from the constitution.
The development of Christianity is driven by motivations that seem to have more to do with poverty and discrimination compared to pure belief.
A number of the churches have been directed by Chepangs, among Nepal’s most disadvantaged native groups.
“Following the earthquakes, Christian assignments in Chepang regions became increasingly more lively and the amount of dinosaurs is dramatically increasing,” says Diana Riboli, an Italian anthropologist who has spent decades exploring Chepang shamanism in the region around Manahari. “Missionaries emphasise that the therapeutic component of Christianity, attempting to put a stop to the usual rituals and charismatic energy of shamans.”
Riboli says conversions are “producing an alarming situation” in Chepang communities, in which inner conflicts are getting more frequent.
Purna Bahadur Praja, a Chepang shaman, states several Chepangs are turning into Christianity only for the cost. “They’re greedy … following the earthquake, they obtained Bibles rice, clothing, blankets, cash to construct churches. Pastors were becoming motorbikes … They spend the entire time emailing foreigners to request cash,” he states.
In a little store off the primary street from where he runs on the cable TV company, dusty paths, coils of wire and soldering irons lie scattered throughout the store. If I had been making a lot of cash would I be working here” he asks.
Mahibal provides an energetic sermon which appears to affirm Purna Bahadur’s accusation that there’s some profiteering. “Many men and women are earning money from Christianity, however they’re not real Christians,” he yells into the mic, before shutting the ceremony. “This church wants a new construction. God, please give a wonderful building.”
In the neighboring village of Ramantar, Dalit Christians possess that prayer replied; they worship within an airy two-story building built with the aid of American missionaries. The warrior, Jit Bahadur Sunar, states that there are 3 other churches in town. “Ten years ago there were four or even five Christian families, but each day that the amount is growing,” he states. “Virtually all of the Dalits below are Christian.”
Caste discrimination is the most important reason Dalits are turning to Christianity, ” he states. [Upper caste] priests refuse to perform death or marriage rituals for Dalits, but among Christians, there’s not any discrimination … we’re all equal.”
Hari Gopal Rimal, a regional Hindu priest, takes this. “Untouchability is a weakness in Hinduism … those items will need to be altered,” he states.
But in the struggle for souls, Rimal believes Hinduism is dropping out into some more potent force. “Different overseas businesses are supplying funds when Christians are sick. And after the earthquake that they supplied help just to Christians. Bibles came with everything … They’re using money to market Christianity and we must compete together.”
“I am miserable as they’re denying their culture and rituals in the name of cash, they’re getting from outside.
“If it’s like this, there’ll be no longer Hindus in this city.” (Source: Guardian)