By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
KATHMANDU, NEPAL (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Nepal tried to worship Saturday, June 13, after police detained a Hindu militant for alleged involvement in a bomb blast that killed three people and injured over a dozen others at a Roman Catholic Church, and the prime minister pledged to end political strife in this impoverished mountainous nation.
A 27-year-old woman, identified as Sita Shrestha nee Thapa, confessed to “planting a bomb” in the Church of the Assumption near the capital Kathmandu on May 23, police said.
The woman had been inspired by the Nepal Defence Army (NDA), an extremist group which wants to make Hinduism the official religion of Nepal and expel non-Hindus, according to investigators.
Police said they are also searching for Ram Prasad Mainali, the leader of NDA, which claimed responsibility for the bomb blast. “We want all the 1 million Christians out of the country, if not we will plant 1 million bombs in all the houses where Christians live and detonate them,” NDA wrote in a published statement.
NDA has also been linked to the murder of Salesian priest John Prakash, 62, who was assasinated July 1 last year in Sirsiya, in the country’s Morang district, where he directed the Don Bosco School.
Catholic sources say the NDA is believed to comprise former soldiers, ex-policemen and victims of Maoist guerrillas. It claims to have trained suicide bombers to fight Communists, Christians and Muslims.
Among survivors of the May blast was the seriously injured Vikash Patrick, whose honeymoon ended in tragedy: His young bride Dipa Patrick, 19, died in the blast.
Patrick, who works at the Chanakya Hotel in Patna, India, told reporters that they had gone there to attend a morning prayer, after which they were to depart for Patna in the afternoon.
Also wounded in the attack were Vikash’s two sisters-in-law who accompanied them from Patna, 16-year-old Sweety Singh and Mona Patrick, 21, “We are appalled,” said a grieving Wilfred Henry, another cousin of the Patricks, who had arrived in Kathmandu with his family. “They had been married only four months ago.”
“We were signing the hymn of glory and had come to the last line,” recounted a witness, identified as Brother Rakesh, in an interview with The Time of India newspaper, while lying in the emergency ward of Alka Hospital. “We were singing the last line when there was a loud bang.
I found my body engulfed by flames. And then I knew no more,” said the 28-year-old who left India to serve the Catholic church in Nepal.
A 15-year-old schoolgirl from the Indian state of Bihar, Shelesy Joseph, was the first to die in the blast that injured also at least 12 more people, mostly teenagers, The Times of India said. After fighting for her life for a week, Celeste’s mother Buddha Laxmi Joseph died, reportedly of haemorrhage.
The violence added to concerns over Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal ability to bring stability in the country, at a time of political turmoil.
However he said in an interview Saturday, June 13, that the troubles will not stop its peace process from moving forward with Maoist guerrillas, another group that have fought in the country. He said however the Maoists must still prove that they are committed to negotiations.
Nepal, whose coalition government has been all but paralyzed by Maoist strikes and internal bickering since he came to power last month, told The Associated Press that he expected the peace process and the new constitution to be completed by the May 2010 deadline.
“If they are really honest in their words, then I hope … we will be able to take the peace process to a positive conclusion,” Nepal said. Since joining the political mainstream in 2006, the Maoists have confined their nearly 20,000 fighters to United Nations-monitored camps.
The former guerrillas have become among the most contentious unresolved issues of the peace process — Maoist leaders insist that they should be integrated into the national army, a move that military officials staunchly resist.
Amid the tensions, Christians faced a difficult spiritual journey to worship Saturday, June 13. Churches gather in Nepal on Saturday, as Sunday is a working day.