NEW DELHI/KATHMANDU (BosNewsLife)– A militant group that once forced hundreds of government officials into resigning is now threatening Christian clergy with violence if they do not give in to its extortion demands, Christians said Wednesday, September 29.
By Joseph DeCaro, BosNewsLife International Correspondent with BosNewsLife Asia Service
Pastors have reportedly received threatening phone calls and letters from the Unified National Liberation Front (UNLF) that has demanded money from churches across Nepal, including in the strategic Kathmandu Valley.
“The pastors who received the extortion calls do not want to go public for fear of retaliation,” said Lok Mani Dhakal, general secretary of the Nepal Christian Society. “We decided to wait and watch a little longer before approaching police.”
The UNLF was one of several militias that emerged after the fall of the military-backed government of the former king of Nepal in 2006.
The group became infamous after intimidating hunderds of government officials into resigning, resulting in an administrative vacuum that caused violent crime to soar nationwide. “It is shameful,” explained Bishop Narayan Sharma of Believers Church. “It shows that Nepal is on the way to becoming a failed state.”
The reported militant threat is the latest challenge faced by Christians in Nepal. Christians are also concerned about a proposal to ban religious conversions in the country’s new constitution. Although the proposal by a legislative panel has yet to pass Parliament, Christian leaders fear it will be approved at a time when Nepal is still in transition from the world’s only Hindu monarchy into a democracy.
Bishop Narayan Sharma of the Believers Church said approval of the ban, which was recommended by the Committee on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles penalizes activities aimed at conversion, including evangelism, although it doesn’t punish individuals for converting.
“We do not have any fear, and we will continue to do what we are doing, whether it’s a Hindu constitution or a secular one,” stressed Sharma. “Conversion is by God; people simply respond to Him. Our philosophy is, ‘We propose and not impose.’ The growth of the church in Nepal is due to the Christian witness, and not just by preaching.”
He said the new constitution aims “to ‘protect’ the country’s demography and thereby its culture” but added that Nepalese Christians live “according to the country’s culture.” “I myself never wear a tie, which is seen as Western.”
Sharma said the only benefit of a conversion ban would be to impede conversions that are not genuine. “Only those who are willing to pay the price will remain.”