Nepali Times
Xmas? Cheers!


It's that time of the year again. If Kathmandu doesn't see Christmas shopping on the scale of London's Oxford Street, where 200,000 people crammed the thoroughfare last Saturday morning despite the economic downturn, there'll be parties galore. Like elsewhere in the West, this will then segue into the New Year celebrations. All this, though there is little to celebrate in Nepal these days, or perhaps because of it. Read: don't worry, make merry.

Christmas Day is itself a public holiday now, and well we might wonder why. In the erstwhile Hindu kingdom of Nepal, we now celebrate - or are given license to celebrate - everything from the more conventionally Hindu and Buddhist specials to Id, a clutch of Lhosars and more secular attractions such as Republic Day, Labor Day and Martyrs' Day. And Christmas. In the Kathmandu Valley, it may seem that the spirit of inclusion that has gripped Naya Nepal may even have the expat community in its drunken embrace, for what else but the latter's patronage and the economic imperative could give momentum to this particular season of making merry?

Delve a little further, however, and you will understand that in Nepal, Christmas isn't just about the glitzy ballrooms of the Hyatt and the Soaltee. Even recent tragedies point to the changing demographics of this country. In May, a bomb killed two in a church in Dhobighat. In September, at least 23 people gathered for a Christian conference of 1500 were killed when a makeshift church dormitory collapsed in Dharan. Walk past Patan Darbar Square these days and you are as likely to catch a riveting performance of the Kartik Nach, the re-enactment of Narasimha's disembowelment of the demon Hiranyakashyap, as a re-enactment of the Passion of the Christ. Walk into Ekta Books looking for some godly inspiration, and you're more likely to come across rack upon rack of Christian Lit than anything else. This, in a nation where Christian proselytisation is still frowned upon despite the 1990 Constitution's provisions for religious freedom, and where the 1971 census determined a Christian population of just 2541.

Today, these numbers have mushroomed to upwards of half a million, by some accounts. According to the Nepal Research and Resource Network, there were 2799 churches in Nepal in 2007, 309 in the Kathmandu Valley alone. We may not quite be making the Great Leap Forward, but Christianity has made great strides in Nepal, and we have one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world.

What of it? I have always had a problem having religion foisted on me, be it through the medium of all-night megaphoned bhajans or clean-scrubbed Jehovah's witnesses a-knocking on my doorstep. But as long as I don't have to hear it or don't see the ill consequences of it, I don't care what religion rocks your boat, it's all Greek to me. What is striking, however, is the remarkable growth of the Gospel in a society traditionally bound by Hindu or Buddhist conventions. This speaks volumes about that society's failure to address the spiritual needs of its members. The cynics or diehards among us may allege that Christian missionaries offer financial inducements to lure marginalised Dalits and janjatis away from their 'real' religious roots, regardless of how recent conversions to Vedic Hinduism itself might be. But the fact remains - state and society have failed these people in some way, and Christianity is offering them something tradition has been unable to.

So rather than perceive the growth of Christianity as a threat (read: editorials in 2011 that express surprise, no, shock, at the new census figures), perhaps it should be seen as a wake-up call. Not to imagine that we can turn the clock back, that this would be even desirable, but to consider how, beyond economics, we can accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Christian Nepalis and others who are so disenchanted with Nepali spirituality. That, rather than a turkey dinner, might be food for thought this Christmas. For those who have the means, after all, 'tis the season to be merry, like any other.

1. Jedi
Well, we have festivus .. for the rest of us!!

2. Sheetal
At least a article that is not 100% negative writing on Christians in Nepal. being a Nepali and a second generation christian myself, i feel very dishartened that no jounalists ever write anything good about us except the conversion part. Have you ever tried to meet some of the christians and listen to them? Have you gone to a church in Kathmandu and see how people are communal and helping each other among them? or even see how the lives of people have changed just because they can now feel that they belong somewhere? But will only write about how harmful it is to nation that Christian population is growing!!!!! so Cliche.

3. pweods
while droves in western world do yoga, try Ayurveda and turn to Buddha for spirituality, churchwallas have no choice but to find more less-educated masses elsewhere. and if it takes money than merit to pull in folks, so be it then. sad indeed that those who were born in the land of churchwallas turn to our heritage for fitting spirituality, but many among us fall for theirs with trinkets.

4. Yup
Amen pweods! "Those who lose their roots will eventually lose everything including themselves." You can quote me on that. Nothing against the so called 'benevolent nature' of Christians --- I think all religious people claim that title for themselves.

5. Solu ko bhote
I used to find your columns more of a commentary, but I guess you've more substance than you write. A good read. Choosing own's sprituality or for that matter a religion should be a personal choice. I don't understand how conversion of some dalits or janajatis into Chritianity would threaten your own belief/faith in Hinduism. But I can understand your fear of losing status quo in the present hierarchical caste system, if there is no one below you to validate your superiority. This argument of losing 'roots/culutre/sprituality' what have you is nonsense, just a thin cover for your own insecurities. Having said that relegion is all politics at the end, there is nothing spritual about it. Christians are not a tolerant lot either who relish the idea of non-believers frying in the eternal hell like: Naubise ko tareko machha.

6. arty
Some of the local christian colleges here in Amrika offer scholarships to Nepalis - if they convert to Christianity. Whether this is "filling a need" or "bribery via indirection", I'll let ya all decide. I'd rather celebrate the winter solstice.

7. pwepas
It was just sometime since someone mentioned caste-system in this discussion. If you don't know, caste-system is illegal, just like racism is in the West. If anyone is suffering due to that, go find legal help. In western religions, social order is inseparable from religion, but eastern spirituality is too diverse to see from that light. Tying eastern religion with issues like caste-system is systematically perpetrated by those whose interest lies in expanding their missionary motives.

8. Sanatan Dharma
The biggest downfall of Hinduism are Hindus themselves. Hindus don't know the real meaning of Hinduism and are just focused on ritualistic side. Even the so called Priests concentrate on performing rituals and receiving Daskshina. Most hindus haven't even read the Vedas or Upanisads. They don''t even know the concept of non-materialism, Ahinsa, Mokshya. non-attachement. The Vedha's have never stated that Caste is determined by birth or that one cast is higher than the other. Yet the society made this an integrals part of Hinduism. Hindus are driving hindus out of their own relegion. Hindus should take a good look at themsevles and learn the true essesnce of Hinduism rather than focusing on rituals and hearsay passed down from their forefathers. They should do this before critising other religions.

9. Suraj
It has now become a big fashion in Nepal to change the religion!! More are inclined to change themselves to christanity as it offers so many things which starts from giving free bibles so the people know what is the religion like. But i am still a Hindu and it's preserver, I feel proud that Hinduism is too liberal and it doesn't offer anybody to change to Hindu, moreover it's a sin in Hinduism to change the religion. In Nepalese context I have done certain researches and found out that most of the Nepalese who have changed their religion belongs to the ethnic minorities, marginalised people, unemployed, less educated. Those people have been the target of the christanity otherwise nowhere in the world people are changing the religion as faster like this. The nation seems to be reckless as are the leaders of 18th century who are just concerned about their personal luxuries and shopistication. Well! They might change their religion if they receive the big bonuses from big brothers and donors as they have the habit of being sold. Last but not the least, I am proud to be a Hindu as it is one of the liberal and non-welcoming religion of the world. Because you are what you are no matter where you are!!!

10. jange
"According to the Nepal Research and Resource Network, there were 2799 churches in Nepal in 2007, 309 in the Kathmandu Valley alone." Make that 2800, a nice round figure. I just started my own church. Looks like a good business to me, the growth seems phenomenal. Nice one, Solu ko Bhote, agree with you totally. Can't understand why anyone would want to go from one form of bondage to another. Surely the idea is to go BEYOND all that religion stuff.

11. Judas
Statements made today by heads of the churches in Nepal, saying that they also need more representation in government just because of their new religion, clearly show that their intention is easy power grab with foreign money, than religion in traditional sense. Nepal should learn from other countries not to give in to these religion peddlers. Church leaders have always been hurdle to human advancement from the days of Newton, Galileo and Darwin. Church leaders still fight science teaching of evolution, stem cell research and women rights. Their goal is to impose their social order for their own gain, nothing else. Nepalis should watch out for these foreign-funded convert-Christians touting their holier-than-thou hubris on rest of the population. - Judas, Denmark

12. jange
Brilliant! If indeed it is true that Christians have also asked for political representation. Good luck to them. At a time when any group of people that can project itself as a group demands political representation there is no reason why Christians should not demand the same. Current political wisdom suggests that all groups of any type are entitled to political representation without having to go through the political process of elections etc. and If the political process puts their representatives in place then well and good, if not there must be an alternative way of getting political representation. The logical outcome of this mode of thinking is to have one man, many votes. So, each person would have one vote to elect someone to represent his locality, one for his political beliefs, one for his religious beliefs, one for his ethnic group, one for his sexual orientation, one for his profession, one for his caste, one for his age group etc. etc. A bit complicated but this is the only way to get fair representation for all. After all, if you are a 50 year old Newar bahun homosexual marxist living in the tarai and working as a carpenter who is going to represent you?- you will be totally marginalised.

13. sunil
ok, i want to put my views too, Man is searching a real God who will lead man to a correct destination.but every man is searching who is the right one so that we can follow him.but till now man is confused they are wandering here and there in search of their own creator. we can also find in nepalese society that people worship their Gods with different name like shiva,Bishnu,Ram Hanuman,kali.....but people are still confused will my lord having different name can give me mukt or life after this may be the best reason that people change their religion.But as i belongs to christianity I want to say that one should know their is life after death so we must find who is the person?who will give us a eternal life.that as jesus christ So its not related with only religion but also with life after death and eternal life that should be done with in period we are alive.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)