6/19/06: Nepal: Adventists Welcome Secular State Declaration
June 19, 2006 Kathmandu, Nepal .... [ANN Staff]
Seventh-day Adventists in the Himalayan nation of Nepal are among those welcoming a recent series of reforms, including the designation of the country as a "secular" state. Previously, Hinduism had been the religion of Nepal.
The changes followed what one media report called a decade-long armed conflict between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and previous governments, the 2002 suspension of the nation's democratically elected government and a 19-day protest in the nation, which brought about the restoration of Parliament by King Gyanendra.
"The reinstated House of Representatives announced its proclamation on a Parliamentary session on [May18]," wrote Dikshya Thakuri in a report for Amnesty International. "The Proclamation stripped the Monarchy of its executive power, declared Nepal a secular state and brought the Royal Nepal Army (RNA), which was enjoying unbridled freedom and emboldened by its direct affiliation with the all-powerful palace, under the Parliament's control. RNA is now called Nepal Army and His Majesty's Government of Nepal has been replaced by the Government of Nepal."
Of greatest interest to the 2,575 Seventh-day Adventists in Nepal, however, is the prospect of enhanced religious liberty in an officially "secular" country.
With the changes, "we have freedom of worship according to our religious belief. Previously we Christians were under threat and not free to conduct meetings and practice our faith freely," said Umesh Kumar Pokharel, pastor of the Kathmandu Adventist congregation, in a statement.
Pokharel concluded: "The Seventh-day Adventist Church welcomes the historic declaration made by the House of Representatives. We hope and believe that the government of Nepal will help Christians to practice their faith without any barrier and we will be able to legalize the churches in Nepal and [we] join hands with the government of Nepal to build a new, prosperous and peaceful Nepal."
The Adventist Church has been active in Nepal since 1989 and has nine congregations there.
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