Official Beats Christian Pastor in Buddhist Bhutan

A government official on Tuesday beat and threatened to kill a Christian pastor in the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, tucked between India and China.

Pema Wangda, a sub-divisional officer (known as "Dungpa" in the local Dzongkha language), in the southern town of Gelephu hit an independent pastor, Pema Sherpa, on his forehead and chest, a friend of the victim told The Christian Post on the phone.

Wangda also took out a local sword, known as the "patang," and threatened to kill the pastor.

Sherpa was among four pastors the official had summoned to ask them not to conduct worship service in their homes. The official attacked the victim at about 3.30 p.m. after the three others had left.

"He (the official) said he would send the pastor to jail, and called police," the source added. "The pastor said he was willing to go to jail, but police eventually didn't detain him."

It is estimated that of the little less than 700,000 people in Bhutan, around 75 percent are Buddhist and a little over 20 percent are Hindu. Christians, who are yet to be recognized in the country legally, are estimated to number around 12,000.

The government does not allow Christians to construct a church building or a Christian cemetery. The constitution provides for religious freedom, and Christians are generally allowed to meet within their homes for worship.

Though a small country, Bhutan is known worldwide for its policy of "gross national happiness," an alternative to conventional economic yardsticks to measure a nation's progress.

However, the 2011 Human Rights Reports, recently released by the U.S. State Department, noted that the regulation of religion was a principal human rights problem this country has.

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