Christian Villagers "Expelled" In Bhutan; Missionaries Concerned

Thursday, May 8, 2008

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

THIMPHU, BHUTAN (BosNewsLife) -- Christian missionaries in Bhutan, a predominately Buddhist nation, faced new challenges Thursday, May 8, nearly a month after villagers were reportedly expelled from their home for becoming Christians.

Gospel For Asia (GFA), a mission group working in the Himalayan nation, said two Christian families were physically attacked and kicked out of their homes "after they chose to follow Christ." On Saturday, April 12, "their fellow villagers attacked the new Christians and forced them out of the village."

The incident meant a major challenge for GFA missionaries Lali Bharose and Ekta Surgari, who recently preached in the village, the group said. The angry crowd "also told Lali and Ekta to leave the village," GFA said. The exact name of the village was not released, apparently because of security reasons.

GFA said the incident underscored tensions in Bhutan where less than one percent is Christian, according to estimates. Attracted by its policy of Gross National Happiness, Western media have held up the country's apparently peaceful transition to democracy in March as a model of wise governance by a Buddhist regime protecting its culture from the ravages of consumerism.


The secluded Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan became the world's newest democracy in March, when the nation held its first elections and ended more than 100 years of royal rule.

However human rights groups say that in the last 20-years its monarchy, threatened by an increase in Bhutan's ethnic Nepalese population, targeted religious minorities. Families who had been living in Bhutan for generations were stripped of their citizenship.

An estimated one hundred thousand Hindu Bhutanese - around one sixth of the country's entire population - were driven into exile and their land redistributed among the Drukpas, Bhutan's Buddhist elite, observers said.

Christians are also believed to be among the refugees.


The issue is expected to come up in political debates, but there have been problems with starting a new 47-seat national assembly.

The People's Democratic Party, which won just two seats, has said it will ask Bhutan's Election Commission to look into possible illegal last-minute campaigning by the winning party.

Bhutan gave a stunning landslide victory in the polls to the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) or Bhutan United Party, led by ex-premier Jigmi Thinley, surprising analysts who had predicted a close race.

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