|These Gospel for Asia missionaries were training to work in Bhutan.|
The civil rights of Christians in Bhutan are eroding rapidly. The government has recently begun clamping down on Christians by barring some congregations from meeting for worship. This has caused at least two Gospel for Asia-affiliated churches to temporarily close their doors. Correspondents in Bhutan also report that the government is planning to enact laws to further restrict the practice of Christianity in the country.
Bhutan is a small country wedged between China and India. The government reports the population as being 675,000, but other estimates put it closer to 1.2 million. Bhutan is in the process of transitioning from a monarchical form of government to a democracy.There is little legal protection for Bhutan citizens who choose to follow Christ. They can be stripped of their citizenship or even expelled from the country.
Less than one percent of Bhutan’s population proclaims Christianity, and anti-Christian sentiment runs strong. Buddhism is the official state religion, but the traditional religions of nearby India have a strong presence here too. There is little legal protection for Bhutan citizens who choose to follow Christ. They can be stripped of their citizenship or even expelled from the country.
In one area of Bhutan, GFA missionaries Satyamurty Paro and Ramita Kinley report that they are about to lose the church building where a congregation of about 120 Christians meets for worship. The government recently informed the missionaries that their church building, which was constructed by the believers themselves, has been slated for demolition. In the meantime, the government has blocked the believers from worshiping there.Less than one percent of Bhutan’s population proclaims Christianity, and anti-Christian sentiment runs strong.
Under Bhutan law, it is illegal to attempt to convert people from the country’s two predominant religions. However, the GFA missionaries had carefully shared the message of Christ in one particular village with little interference for some time. Then three families from a neighboring village chose to follow Christ and became involved in the church. When word of their decisions reached government officials, they began to harass the new believers and the GFA missionaries. At present, the church stands empty while the believers pray that the government will not follow through with their promise to destroy it.
|It is very difficult for Christian congregations to receive permission to build a church. Therefore, many congregations meet in homes such as this one.|
A similar report comes in from another area of Bhutan where the government has said a congregation of 80 believers can no longer meet for worship. GFA missionary Dileshwar Ekka was planning a baptism ceremony in mid-July for nine of these new believers, but in light of the current situation, he is not sure if the baptisms can proceed.
GFA leaders in Bhutan ask for prayer that God will protect the pastors, missionaries and believers in Bhutan, and that He will give them special strength to withstand the opposition.
Prayers are also needed that God will protect the churches, including the buildings where they meet.
Also pray that God will speak to the hearts of the government officials who allow these Christians to be harassed. Pray first that they would come to know Christ.