Christianity in Nepal: Four time period

Christianity in Nepal can be divided into four phases.

1. Pilot Phase: 1628 to 1769

Dr. Perry records that Father Joan Cabral of the Jesuit order was the first Christian recorded to have visited Katmandu.(1628) Jonathan Lindell mentioned that the first missionary arrived into Kathmandu in 1707, but departs for Lhasa soon. This followed by others coming to Kathmandu valley.3 Over the span of the 54 years of the active work of the Mission in the Nepal valley, 29 Capuchin missionaries lived there (1715-1769).During the time of King Prithvinarayan’s time, the circumstances of the Fathers and of the Christians became extremely difficult. The Capuchin Fathers were under heavy suspicion and disgrace, and were unable to do their usual work. The local government maltreated missionaries, and tortured the converts. Under these circumstances, the Fathers came to the decision to leave the country along with fellow Nepali Christians in February 1769.4 The 18th century had brought the Gospel but failed to present it in right away. Capuchins tried to convert the locals rather than displaying the truth to the locals. For Capuchins, tradition took root than living Christ-like-life. The religious tradition became stronger, and conversion became prominent among Nepalis. Locals perceived them as someone who came to endorse a ‘foreign religion’ to them when there was much tension and strife at home. Perhaps this was the reason; Lindel says that the Capuchins considered their mission in Nepal largely a failure.

2. Dark Phase: 1769 to 1951

Nepal was a closed land for the gospel after the catholic missionaries were exiled. Christians were banned from entering the Country until the middle of 20th century. Over the next 80 years or so the increasingly immature leadership from the throne allowed Jung Bahadur Rana to become Prime-minister after the Kot Massacre in 1846 and de facto ruler in Nepal. For the next 104 years, the country was oppressed under the Rana regime which kept the country in isolation from the rest of the world. However, some of the Rana Prime ministers had a positive approach to India and the Arabian countries and Britain5 as well, which ultimately helped Nepal and was reflected in Nepal’s architecture, education and other infra-structures.

3. Freedom Phase: 1951 to 2008

In 1951, the Rana regime ended and the Shah dynasty was restored to power. At that time, the country was opened up to foreigners and the first foreign (Protestant) missionaries were allowed to enter and work in Nepal. Apart from an abortive attempt at multiparty democracy in the 50s, Nepal was ruled as an absolute monarchy under a one-party Panchayat System until 1990 and it was still the only Hindu kingdom in the world. During this time it was illegal to change one’s religion or proselytise: nevertheless the Nepalese church started to grow.

4. Golden Phase: 2008 to 'now'

The 2008 was a historic year for all Christians in Nepal in every sense of the term. In 2008, the country was declared a Federal Democratic Republic. An interim Constitution was also promulgated which made Nepal as a secular nation. Christianity was no more a foreign religion but one among many religions of Nepal. Christmas day was declared a gazetted public holiday from 2008. The first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal visited Nepali Isai Mandali, Gyaneshwar to celebrate Christmas with the Christian congregation. Along with those freedoms, there were others who disliked the presence of Christians. However, some of the groups started to fight against this move. One of those is the National Democratic Party who wants the country to return to Hindu kingdom. We are still running on the interim constitution, and the country has not got the Constitution whose drafting process has not ended yet. What is happening at the moment in Nepal? Rongong puts in a positive framework, saying, the churches are emerging as mainline churches with having ample membership because of which they have become self-supporting. Holistic mission is being founded by some churches. The church groups such as National Churches Fellowship of Nepal (NCF), Nepal Christian Society (NCS) and Nepal council of Churches are formed. Many small church planting movements have risen over the years. In several districts, Christian societies have emerged. Christians are actively participating in the political lead and decision-making arena. The youth and emerging leaders are mobilized through an initiative of student ministry and other professional group.6 Having said all those initiatives, it is observed that Christian missions have not yet reached in Mid and Far West of Nepal comparing to the other regions. Many such missions are mobilized from the capital base and this; sometime do not show an enough justice. It is seen that most of the training sessions fail to present the fundamental teachings. The teachings are mostly relied on the experiences and testimonies than the Bible focused teachings. A sound biblical teaching is needed to help the Nepali churches in remote areas.