For over 240 years, until it became a republic in the year 2008, Nepal was the one and only Hindu monarchy in the world. And while since 2006 Hinduism has no longer been the official state religion, Hindus nonetheless make up the overwhelming majority at over 80% of the population and the country is still is strongly characterised by Hinduism. The second largest group, at a little over 9%, are the Buddhists, while Christians account for just 1.4% of the population - and Catholics are a minority among them. Numbering just 8,000 or so Catholic faithful, they are in fact no more than a tiny minority of 0.1%.
The situation in Nepal is very delicate. In 2015 the country adopted a new constitution, and in the very same year it was struck by two severe earthquakes. In May 2017 the first local elections for 20 years were held; they are expected to be followed by Parliamentary elections in January 2018.
In April 2017 there was an arson attack on the parish house of the Catholic cathedral in Kathmandu. By the grace of God, nobody was injured in the attack. The perpetrators and their motives are as yet unknown, but it is not the first time that the tiny Catholic community in Nepal has been the target of such attacks. In May 2009 a bomb exploded in the cathedral, and now many Catholics are afraid. The vicar general, Father Silas Bogati acknowledges: “From time to time we Catholics here are discriminated against and although we are Nepalese citizens, we are treated like foreigners, simply because we are Christians. Unfortunately, in some sectors of society there are hostile attitudes towards the Christian communities.”
(Nepal February 2017. Bishop Paul Simick offering Mass at Damak in the chapel of the convent of the Sisters of Cluny. The Sisters run a hostel for girls along with their other duties © Aid to the Church in Need)
The apostolic vicariate of Nepal covers the entire country, and Bishop Paul Simick, who is from India, needs to do a good deal of travelling in order to visit the isolated Catholic communities and strengthen and encourage them. Above all he often has to travel to the eastern part of the country where there are many Catholics. But his car is already 12 years old and has suffered a great deal of wear and tear during this time. With spare parts becoming quite scarce, the bishop needs to update to a new vehicle. Nepal is an overwhelmingly rural country and a great part of it lies within the Himalayan mountain range. The vast majority of the population live outside the towns, so the pastoral journeys the bishop has to travel are long and arduous and make heavy demands on any vehicle. Since all vehicles in Nepal are extremely expensive, the bishop has turned to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for help. ACN had promised a grant of $59,000.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929