Bhutan Bans Public Religious Activities For Six Months Before Elections
Update (February 5): According to Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, approximately two-thirds of the country's 742,000-person population is "sufficiently happy." Yet, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), is speaking out against the GNH, arguing that the country should turn its attention to the religious freedom violations occurring against Christians.
GNH is based on four "pillars": sustainable development, cultural values, natural environment and good governance. Formally, Bhutan guarantees religious freedom to its citizens, but anti-conversion laws and policies banning religions other than Buddhism have been on the rise since 2010, making it increasingly hard to be a Christian in Bhutan.
Meanwhile, Asia News also reports that Bible sales among non-Christians in neighboring Nepal have doubled.
A statement from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) requires that religious institutions and clergy "not hold, conduct, organize or host" any public activity in the months leading up to the second parliamentary election. The ban will begin Jan. 1, 2013.
"This noble national proclamation requires all religious organization and personalities in the Kingdom (of Bhutan) to conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy and respectful of the respective faith they profess and accept," the notification states.
According to Religion News Service, the only officially recognized religions in Bhutan are Buddhism and Hinduism, which comprise about 75 percent and 22 percent of the population, respectively. Christians make up less than 2 percent of the country.