Earthquake in Nepal destroys rural churches, with believers… | news report

Nepalese Christians are mourning the loss of many of their own after a series of devastating earthquakes in early November.

On Friday, November 3, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake occurred. shaken the Nepalese mountain villages of Jajarkot and Rukum West shortly before midnight, burying people under layers of rubble as they slept. A subsequent earthquake occurred on Monday, November 6, this time measuring 5.2.

Many rural churches planted in West Rukum, Jajarkot and Kalikot districts were “flattened,” Hanok Tamang, president of the National Association of Churches in Nepal, told CT. “It’s true [that] Many pastors, leaders and Christians have died.”

Nepal news population It is 31 million and is divided into seven states and 77 districts. The areas affected by the earthquake are located in the Midwest region of the country.

The general estimate body count There are more than 150 people so far, including more than 80 children, according the non-governmental organization Save The Children. The villagers have chosen sleeping outdoors in icy conditions for fear of continued aftershocks, but also because their homes have been destroyed.

The earthquakes of 2023 are the “deadliest“It happened since the devastating 2015 earthquake near the city of Kathmandu when believers were attending church on a Saturday, since Sunday is a workday. “Many Christians were buried while worshiping on the Sabbath and died,” said the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nepal, Umesh Pokharel. said Adventist Magazine At the time.

Nepal’s Christians make up 1 to 3 percent of the population, and Protestants were disproportionately affected in the 2015 disaster, a Catholic leader said.

Preliminary reports from Nepalese Christian leaders reveal that believers and churches have suffered significant losses after the earthquake. This may put additional strain on the Nepalese church, which has seen more than 130 pastors die during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of our church family members died. Houses are destroyed and children die from [the] earthquake,” saying a shepherd named Samjay.

“Pastor Judha lost five members of his family… His daughter and four grandchildren lost their lives in the earthquake.” saying Tanka, a Christian from western Nepal who works with the interfaith aid agency Barnabas Aid.

three churches affiliated with The US-based global missions agency GFA World was “severely affected” and three members of a village church were affected. delicate. Some members of the Eastern Believers Church also They lost their lives.

More than 40 believers are injured and 13 church buildings have collapsed or been damaged, according to estimates by BP Khanal, Nepal coordinator of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

But other church leaders think the magnitude of the damage and suffering is much greater. “More than 300 Christian families are affected out of a total of 6,000 to 7,000 households affected,” Mukunda Sharma, senior pastor of Bethel Assembly Church, told CT.

Humanitarian aid has been arriving little by little as the villages are located in remote and often difficult to access locations. But Christians have mobilized efforts to help those affected by the earthquakes.

A team from the Eastern Believers Church I went to a village and distributed blankets and tarps for makeshift tents, as well as essential food items such as bags of rice and noodles. GFA World Church Volunteers amount to villages on motorcycles to distribute food. The Catholic organization Caritas Nepal has also started distributed blankets, clothing, tents and waterproof tarps to families.

But more help is desperately needed, says Sharma, who has since traveled to the disaster-hit area to help with rescue efforts. “No one is helping. People don’t have money to help. The churches here don’t have money to help,” she said.

Government aid does not go directly to the victims but is given to the respective municipalities, Sharma explained.

“The difficulty is that Christians are excluded [from receiving aid]. If we have some funding and response from the people of the global world, Christian societies will take proper permission and distribute [it] to the affected Christians, but for now we have not received help from anywhere.”

“Let us keep Nepal on the radar of our collective intercession,” Tamang urged.

The deaths of Nepalese Christians may bring renewed attention to the burial issue. In the Hindu-majority country, most people cremate their dead. Believers are often unable to bury their loved ones, either due to a lack of available public cemeteries or government-issued bans.

Without the opportunity for a burial, a funeral may often not be held. Most evangelicals in Nepal have been forced to cremate their dead (which Hindus practice) or travel to other parts of the country, and even India, to bury their loved ones.

As believers try to rebuild their lives and places of worship after the earthquakes, they do so amid growing persecution against Christians in Nepal.

At least seven attacks took place across the country between August and September of this year, according a report from International Christian Concern. People broke windows in churches and members of a community in the southern province of Lumbini attacked two pastors in the street.

Kechav Archarya, pastor of Abundant Harvest Church in Pokhara, Nepal, was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 10,000 Nepalese rupees ($75) for proselytizing. On October 6, the Supreme Court of Nepal rejected an attempt to appeal against this sentence.

“Pastor Keshav Acharya did not resort to coercion to convert anyone to Christianity.” saying Joseph Jansen, president of the advocacy group Voice for Justice, in an interview with Asia News last year.

“The pastor only exercised his right to freedom of religion and did not commit any crime. “It is unfortunate that Nepal’s anti-conversion laws are drafted and enforced in such a way that they can also be applied as anti-blasphemy measures.”

The law, enacted in 2017, criminalizes religious conversion and came a year after courts dropped charges against eight Nepalese Christians accused of evangelizing children at a Christian school after the 2015 earthquakes.

This story is developing and will be updated.

Additional reporting by Surinder Kaur

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