History of Christianity in Nepal

According to Kim Han Sang,  Nepal once closed its door to Christian missionaries during the regime of king Prithvi Narayan Shah known as the Gorkha Kingdom. Despite the situation, Protestant Missionaries ministered to the Nepalese along the Indian border. Only a few missionaries were allowed to enter Nepal in 1951 A.D. but they were not allowed to preach the gospel and convert people to Christ.  As of 2011, Nepal  was blessed with 375,699 Christians & 2,799 churches.
In this article, Kim writes that despite the government's perceptions and policies on Christianity being strict and narrow, the growth of the church was remarkable. There are countries, such as Thailand, Japan and Taiwan, that give religious freedom where Christians and missionaries are free to express and share their faith.  Compared to these countries, the growth of the church was outstanding in Nepal even in the midst of persecution and hardship.
Kim speaks about the land structure and about how Nepal is connected to India and China geographically.  Nepal remained isolated in captivity, with no access to advancing technologies such as aerospace, while European Imperial advanced in South Asia for centuries.
In this article Kim speaks about the unification of Nepal by the king - Prithvi Narayan Shahin in 1769 A.D. and how he abandoned Christian missionaries along with the converted Nepali Christian from the country.  According to Kim, the Capuchin fathers lived in Nepal and were welcomed with honor by kings of inside and outside Kathmandu valley. But when king Prithvi Narayan Shah ruled Nepal, he thought that Christianity was a threat to their religion and politics.  Nepal’s attitude and policy on foreigners and Christianity remained the same even during the Rana period, when the kingdom supplied its solders to the British army for Indian Mutiny, World War I, and World War II. The Nepalese could go outside of the kingdom, but no foreigner could enter the kingdom.
Kim writes that King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev supported the idea of democracy. After his death in 1954 A.D., his son and King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, succeeded the throne in 1956 A.D. The successor introduced ‘party less panchayat democracy' in which democratic ideas and forms could be learned and practiced.  It lasted until 1990 A.D.  The wind of “New Nepal” brought changes not only in the political realm but also for Christian missions. Hence, Missionaries were allowed to preach and do social work in Nepal.

In this article Kim describes about the origin, changes and splitting of the communist party of Nepal. The CPN (Maoist) led an armed revolution in February, 1996, which lasted for ten years. “At least 13,000 persons lost their lives”.
Kim records the Royal Massacre of June 2001 in the article. The second people’s movement in 2006 A.D. compeled King Gyanendra to Resign Kingship and submit the government to the public’s hand. Nepal becomes the federal democratic republic on May 28, 2008.
King Birendra granted general amnesty on June 2, 1996, which freed about sixty people in jail for their Christian faith and dropped charges against a couple hundred Christians.  In the 1991 census, Christians were included in the religion category.  Kim describes that in that time the relation between Christian and government was sound. The Christians were still facing extreme persecution but not in the mainstream as compared before.  Growth of the church however, was extensive.  Churches were still a target for terrorism, many church leaders were killed, and many churches were burned. Amazingly, the church in Nepal has grown fast in this hostile environment. 
Since 1951, missionaries focused their energy in community development, education and medicine.    Nepali Christians took an active role in evangelism and church planting. Barclay suggested eleven factors contributing to the growth. As a result, the number of Christians grew from a handful of people in 1951 to somewhere between 375,699 and 2.3 million people in 2011.
Other important issues in his article suggest Christian’s needs for graveyard, buildings and theological institutions.
In conclusion, Kim states that The Nepalese church was heavily influenced by the state's policy on Christianity. Yet, God's love for the Himalayan people never failed. The gospel of Jesus found its way to the Nepalese in India. From 1951 to 1990, the new Nepal allowed Christians and missionaries to enter their kingdom with a very limited freedom of religion. Churches were planted in this hostile environment and the number of Christians grew slowly and yet steadily.

Edited by: Wilma Penner 
Author: Prashant Khadka

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