Christianity Growing in Bhutan Despite Repression, Propaganda

''Freedom of worship is severely restricted with many believers meeting secretly in private homes, fearing government scrutiny and retaliation.''

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By Kenneth Chan, Christian Post Editor
January 5, 2005|4:29 pm

The reclusive Kingdom of Bhutan is an unassuming stronghold of repression of Christians, reported the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). In its most recent release, the RLC reported that although Bhutan was formerly known as Shangri-La for its tranquil natural beauty, “its serenity belies its aggressive opposition to the gospel and its faithful believers.”

About 50,000 (or 0.25 percent) of Bhutan’s predominantly Buddhist population are reportedly Christian, while Buddhists make up an estimated 2 million. Although Bhutan opened to Christianity in 1965—when most of the country’s Christian adherents came to Christ—the RLC reports that this freedom has seriously declined unfortunately. “Recently, government opposition to Christian activities has taken on an apparent systematic strategy to greatly diminish if not eliminate the practice of Christianity,” the RLC reported. “Missionaries or Christian leaders are not allowed into the country and proselytism is strictly prohibited.”

The Commission reports that since 2000, government authorities have engaged in a sustained campaign against the Christian minority, especially in the south, which is subject to evangelistic influence from nearby India. Bhutanese leaving the country report that local authorities aggressively subject Christians to various forms of persecution and harassment in the form of public beatings, refusal of access to water and electricity, denying of travel permits and children’s school, and discrimination in applying for jobs, promotions, loans and commercial licenses. Buddhist monks and the government also promote the pretext that Christianity threatens national identity and unity, the RLC reported.

Freedom of worship is severely restricted with many believers meeting secretly in private homes, fearing government scrutiny and retaliation.

“Believers have also had their names struck from census records and then are refused government services,” the RLC stated. “In essence, Christians become refugees in their own country.”

Due to the repression, many flee the country, often finding haven in refugee camps in eastern Nepal.

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However, the RLC reports that Christianity continues to grow in Bhutan, regardless of the ongoing repression and propaganda. “Despite the Bhutan Kingdom's socially progressive efforts such as banning tobacco sales and foregoing economic standards for a 'Gross National Happiness' index, it cannot quench the real spiritual thirst of its people,” the commission stated.

On the Open Doors “World Watch List,” Bhutan is listed as 8 among the top 50 countries where Christians suffer the most.

 

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