Religion News blog has a couple of interesting stories that should tilt the head of the missions minded person. This first one is out of Chittagong, Bangladesh:
Buddhist extremists held eight Chakma Christians for four days to force them to return to Buddhism
The Buddhists held a pastor, a church secretary, a village leader and five members from a Baptist church in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, said Caroline Anderson , a well-informed writer in Asia for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, a major mission group.
The captives were all forced to wear Buddhist robes, shave their heads, bow down before a statue of Buddha and clean the temple; they were also threatened with beatings and even death if they tried to escape, she reported.
Detained August 23, they were initially told they would be confined to the temple for one to two weeks, but after four days the Christian captives were released provided they remained Buddhist, missionaries said.
“They are not allowed to pray to Jesus, nor read Bibles, but they say they are still Christian in their hearts,” added a missionary who did not want to use her real name amid security concerns. Despite the difficulties, 10 new Chakma churches have been established with about 300 Chakmas professing their faith in Jesus, Christians said….
Here is the other story coming from New Delhi, India:
A legislative panel in Nepal has proposed retaining a ban on converting others in the country’s new constitution.
Parliament has yet to decide on the proposal, but Christian leaders said they fear it is likely to be approved given that Nepal’s largest political party, led by former Maoist rebels, sympathizes with the deposed king’s wishes for such a ban. The country is forging a new constitution as part of its transition from a Hindu monarchy to a democracy.
Asked if the proposal violated international conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nepal is a signatory, Pandey said the committee looked at “all relevant conventions” as well as “Nepal’s own unique socio-political context” before reaching the consensus.
Pandey is from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist).
Bishop Anthony Sharma, the first ethnic Nepalese to be ordained as a Jesuit priest, said the panel’s proposal will not alter his congregation’s Christian activities.
“We do not have any fear, and we will continue to do what we are doing, whether it’s a Hindu constitution or a secular one,” he said. “Conversion is by God; people simply respond to Him. Our philosophy is, ‘We propose and not impose.’ The growth of the church in Nepal is due to the Christian witness, and not just by preaching.”
The Rev. Dr. Mangalam Mahajan, president of Koinonia Church Fellowship, said he was hopeful that the new constitution would carry the same provisions as in the Indian Constitution, which allows for free profession, practice and propagation of religion – though some Indian states have “anti-conversion” laws outlawing forced or fraudulent conversion.
“The restriction will affect the Christian work in Nepal,” Mahajan said.
Though the ban on encouraging conversions has been in force for more than five decades, it is unclear how it would be interpreted and implemented in the new constitution. Christians fear that Hindu nationalist groups would misuse the ban to restrict public meetings and social work that could be suspected of being aimed at conversions.
Proselytizing was outlawed in the Himalayan nation in its 1959 Constitution, which replaced the country’s first interim constitution of 1951. Since then, all consecutive constitutions have retained the ban, including the 2007 interim constitution issued a year after the abolition of the world’s only Hindu monarchy.
The bishop of the Believers Church, Narayan Sharma, said he was not surprised at the proposed continuation of the ban.
“We know that the new constitution will restrict conversions to ‘protect’ the country’s demography and thereby its culture,” Sharma said. “But Nepalese Christians live as per the country’s culture. I myself never wear a tie, which is seen as Western.”
He added that the only upside of such a ban would be that restrictions could filter out conversions that are less than genuine.
“Only those who are willing to pay the price will remain,” Sharma said. “It is surprising, though, that socially Nepal is very progressive – homosexual marriages are legal – but when it comes to religion, it becomes conservative.”