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 people are open to the gospel, especially with the current political and social instability. The church has grown from 29 members of a small group in 1959 to approximately 500,000 today.
According to church leaders, Christians have become targets of the rebels in some areas. No foreign or local workers have been allowed into some of the areas dominated by the Maoists. The rebels have prevented Christians from preaching in some villages and asked them to leave villages under their control.
The rebels, modeling themselves on Peru's Shining Path guerrillas, have waged a "people's war" since 1996, in which more than 1,600 people have been killed. In the past rebels insisted they would not harm any humanitarian agencies—except for American-backed organizations.
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Other Christianity Today articles from Nepal include:
Four Christians Released in Nepal | Witnesses who accused the Christians of bribing converts fail to show in court. (Feb. 14, 2001)
The Church at the Top of the World | Nepal's Christians see unprecedented growth in this Hindu kingdom. (April 3, 2000)
The Nepal Bible Society offers a few statistics and information about the organization and country.
More articles are available from our Persecution page.
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