On January 14, BBC published a shocking report that said the Christian population has possibly increased by 68 per cent in Nepal in less than a decade, thanks to Christian missionaries, especially from South Korea. A report titled ‘Christian missionaries target birthplace of Buddha in Nepal’ explained how South Korea, in particular, has been sending a tsunami of evangelists to Nepal.
As per the report, Nepal had 3,76,000 Christians in 2011 (census numbers), which has increased to approx 5,45,000 now, a jump of 68 per cent. Notably, Christians make up 2 per cent of the total population in Nepal, while Hindus are 80 per cent and Buddhists are 9 per cent. The number of Christians in 1951 was zero, which rose to 458 in 1961. Since then, the number has exponentially increased. In 2008, the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy ended in the country, and it became secular. The report suggests that the change in the country’s religious status helped a lot in increasing the Christian population.
South Korea’s role in conversions in Nepal
South Korea started sending evangelists to Nepal around two decades ago. Since then, around 20,000 Korean missionaries have joined the movement to convert Hindus to Christianity. The so-called caste system has been blamed for the conversions. Quoting a Korean missionary couple, BBC noted they are converting village after village to Christianity. Korean Pastor Pang Chang-in claimed that after watching a single alleged “miracle”, the whole village converted to Christianity.
Pang noted that despite the anti-conversion law in the country, the missionaries are converting Hindus at a rapid pace. The birthplace of Bhagwan Buddha is facing an attack on its culture and history which makes him delighted. In around 20 years, Pang alone has overseen the construction of over 70 churches in the country, most of them located in the district Dhading, which is 2 hours away from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
As per the latest data, there are around 7,758 churches in Nepal. Imagine a country where Christians had a negligible population, now facing a parasitic conversion rate. Notably, Korean missionaries are known for being aggressive. They mostly target places that are known to be “hardest to convert”. Lee Jeong-hee, wife of Pang, said, “We are always working with the anxiety and nervousness we feel from the anti-conversion law. But we can’t stop the spread of the gospel because of this fear. We will not stop saving souls.”
Both Pang and Joeng were bankers before turning evangelists. In 2003, Pang first came to Nepal. He was “shocked” to see the country’s idols being worshipped at a large scale. The funny thing is, Christians themselves worship an idol of Jesus Christ, Mother Merry and the Cross. He said, “I was shocked to see so many idols being worshipped. I felt Nepal was in desperate need of the gospel.” According to Pang, the end of the Hindu monarchy was the beginning of “the golden age for missionary work”.
There are around 300 Korean families in Nepal who indulge in missionary work. However, BBC could interview only Pang and his wife as others preferred to stay under the curtains out of fear of the anti-conversion laws.
An OpIndia report mentioned how the communist government was hand in glove with the Christian Missionaries. Notably, in 2018, former Prime Minister Oli attended the Asia Pacific Summit, organised by Universal Peace Foundation, a South Korean NGO accused of funding and promoting conversions to Christianity.
‘The culture is at stake’
BBC spoke to former Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Kamal Thapa about the rapid conversions that have been happening in the country. Thapa said the culture of the country was at stake. He said, “It’s spreading like wildfire. Cultural identity is at stake. The fabric of the national unity is at stake.” He called out the Korean missionaries and said their work was an “organised attack on the country’s cultural identity”. He said, “Missionaries are working behind the scenes, exploiting the poor and ignorant people and encouraging them to convert to Christianity. This is not a case of religious freedom. This is a case of exploitation in the name of religion.”
Thapa is one of the leaders lobbying for Nepal to return to becoming a Hindu state. In a recent tweet, he said, “I have repeatedly been saying Sanatan Dharma culture and tradition have been in crisis due to organised religious conversion. However, our attention has not gone. We are united to control organised proselytism and protect Sanatan Dharma culture and tradition.” (Translated from Nepalese using Google Translator)
बारम्बार भन्दै आएको छु-संगठित धर्मपरिवर्तनको डढेलोमा सनातन धर्म संस्कृति र परम्परा संकटमा परिसक्यो।तर,हाम्रो ध्यान गएको छैन।यसवारे आवाज उठाउँदा धर्मको नाममा राजनीति गर्यो भन्ने आरोप लगाईन्छ।
संगठित धर्मपरिवर्तन नियन्त्रण गर्न र सनातन धर्म संस्कृति र परम्पराको रक्षागर्न एकजुट हौँ https://t.co/7o85Eknigs
— Kamal Thapa (@KTnepal) January 14, 2023
Though an anti-conversion law is in place, no convictions have taken place since it was imposed. There are currently five active cases in the country. Four cases against Koreans, including two nuns, were dropped last year. As per UCA news, the two nuns were held under the charges of converting Hindus under the guise of allurement. They were detained for six weeks before the formal arrest was made in October 2021. Later in November 2021, both of them were granted bail. In 2022, the charges against them were dropped.
The rampage conversion has reached the level that they have managed to convert Hindu priests as well. When Nepal faced a deadly earthquake in 2015, the missionaries got into action and used the calamity to convert Hindus to Christianity.