Increasing threats from terrorists have forced 10 foreign aid agencies in Nepal to suspend development work in five western districts. In a May 9 statement issued in Kathmandu, the agencies—from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Japan—claim their staffs have been subjected to persistent intimidation and extortion.

"Over the past few weeks, Maoists in Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi have made serious demands and threats against a number of development agencies," a joint statement from the agencies said. "They have put bombs in the offices and threatened property."

On April 27 a bomb went off in a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) project in Dhangadhi in western Nepal. LWF staff in the western districts of Nepal have been called back to the regional center of Dhangadhi. All planned activities have been canceled pending further consultations. But LWF in Geneva says it has no intention of pulling out.

"We are taking the Maoist threat seriously and are consulting our workers for the best step forward," spokesman Robert Granke said.

The decision to withdraw will affect more than 50,000 people in some of the poorest areas of the country of 26.4 million people, who are heavily dependent on foreign aid. The average annual income per person is $220. The average life expectancy is 59.

For the Christian minority in the world's lone Hindu kingdom, the current political and social unrest has brought a heightened sense of uncertainty.

"It certainly is affecting Christians in a number of ways," said a Christian leader who requested anonymity. "The country is falling apart. The crisis has ruined development." Projects run by foreign mission organizations have reduced staff to half their former work force.

But church leaders say ...

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