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-Bhutan: Christianity Could Soon be Officially Recognized

by Dr. D ~ November 8th, 2010

Emblem of Bhutan

(Emblem of Bhutan –Wikipedia)

According to Compass Direct News, the Buddhist country of Bhutan could soon officially recognize Christianity.

The government agency that regulates religious organizations in Bhutan will discuss how to proceed in officially registering a representative Christian organization at its next meeting in December according to the agency secretary Dorji Tshering.

Currently only Buddhist and Hindu organizations are registered and have official authority to openly practice their religion and build places of worship. Christianity could soon become the 3rd official religion in Bhutan.

Secretary Tshering was asked by Compass Direct if that meant that Christians might soon get the same rights and he replied:

“Absolutely.

“The constitution of Bhutan says that Buddhism is the country’s spiritual heritage, but it also says that his majesty [the king] is the protector of all religions.”

This is a major shift from how Christianity has been treated and looked at in the past. In fact just last month a Nepalese Christian was sentenced to prison for showing Christian films in the country.

The Christian community in Bhutan, which numbers around 6,000 or so, currently meets unofficially in homes and has no places of worship in the country.

Response: Bhutan received a great deal of criticism for the sentencing of the Christian last month to a prison term of 3 years for showing Christian films in the country.

Since then, Christians all around the world have been praying for the Christian community in Bhutan. There were concerns that all the Christians there might be rounded up and deported since many of them originated from Nepal. Now comes the word that Christianity might actually receive official recognition.

Obviously the young King of Bhutan is supporting this change and I really wonder if he isn’t behind it altogether since he was educated in the UK and the United States. It is possible that the international response might have persuaded him to make this complete turn around.

Regardless, it is long over due and seems like a real miracle.            *Top of the Blog

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4 Responses to -Bhutan: Christianity Could Soon be Officially Recognized

  1. Phil

    This is going to put some major responsibility onto the shoulders of the western church. Christianity has been resisted largely because the Bhutanese have seen the way it is preached in India, and the prevalence of prosperity theology in missions there has convinced them that Christinaity appeals purely to greed. The current state of the western church largely bears that out, but if missionaries were to bring Jesus’ teachings as they are, I suspect they might be recieved with open arms.

  2. Dr. D

    Phil,
    I believe you are right that the Bhutanese are concerned about the way Christianity has been presented sometimes in India.

    However, many of the complaints in India come from Hindu radicals who resent the fact that Christian missions have reached out to the Dallit population and have worked to increase their living and working conditions. Now the traditional pool for near ‘slave’ labor has been reduced where Christianity has flourished.

    The Hindu radicals make the claim that the help that the ‘untouchables’ are receiving from the missions is tantamount to ‘buying’ their conversions and have upset the traditional Indian culture and order. They have been very successful in spreading that charge.

    The Bhutanese authorities are concerned that Christianity might also bring major changes to their culture and challenge the traditional order in their country. It looks to me like the Bhutanese government is hoping to work through one Christian representative organization in order to bring some form of accountability. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

  3. Phil

    Thanks for that Dr D, that’s interesting background on the Indian situation. Bhutan does have a very strong emphasis on maintaining its culture, so much so that people have been arrested for wearing jeans or other signs of western culture. This is not purely patriotism or religion, but has a practical basis as the country is small, landlocked and has a fragile environment.

    Some years ago a few mountain guides managed to buy horses for the western tourists who didn’t like yaks, and thereby attracted a lot more of the market. A horse however eats about as much as 5 yak, so the pastures were quickly overgrazed, and being steep himalayan country they lost the topsoil and therefore the grazing land with the next heavy rain. Bhutan has a natural resource management strategy that places as top priority the need to maintain a philosophy of contentment with the satisfaction of basic needs and the rejection of greed. India offers a fortune for their timber but it is illegal to sell timber out of the country because doing so would see the country clear-felled in a few years with a small number of very rich individuals and a future of harsh poverty for everyone else who relied on the forests. Instead, families fell one tree per year which they cut up and turn into furniture themselves, selling that to India and paying for the next year’s needs.

    The Bhutanese people I know and have worked with are beautiful gentle people who have been happy to discuss Jesus on occasion. I have to say that I admire the wisdom of their thinking and it certainly fits well with my own Biblical priorities, so I find it very sad that the impression of Christianity they have is that it purely appeals to greed (eg http://www.bhutantimes.bt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1644&Itemid=1). I really pray that this growing openness won’t be seen as an opportunity by the many “men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Timothy6:5) that plague the western church with so much false teaching. That scenario would destroy the welfare of this little country and do it in the name of Jesus.

  4. Dr. D

    Phil, Thanks for the insights into Bhutan. The real answer is for indigenous leaders to rise up and lead the way. I am aware that there are a few house churches already in Bhutan but only a literal handful of leaders and pastors. I am praying along with others that the Lord will raise up Bhutanese leaders to expand the church from within that culture which is how the church expanded in China after all the Western missionaries were kicked out by the Communists. That is also what is happening with a mission I am connected with in Cambodia.

    The Christian leaders that I know who have ties with those few in Bhutan are very concerned about the very same things you cite here.
    As the country is now opening up to more commerce and additional educational opportunities. I can see a future where young Bhutanese leave the country for further education or for business and find Christ in the process and return to Bhutan to bring Jesus back with them.

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