A major milestone was achieved in Nepal when the nation enacted its new constitution on 20 Sept 2015. This was achieved after the elections in November 2013 and the establishment of a new assembly that earnestly brought the new constitution to realisation.
The national charter has been welcomed by most Nepalis who hope that it will herald peace and prosperity in the once civil war-torn Himalayan nation. Yet there have been protestations from minority groups as they feel that their rights have not been reflected in the constitution. Significantly, the constitution envisages Nepal as a secular republic. Until the abolition of the monarchy in 2008, Nepal was a Hindu kingdom. The constitution defines secularism as “religious and cultural freedom including protection of religion and culture prevalent since ancient time”.
Whilst the constitution defines secularism as religious and cultural freedom, it also states that it protects the country’s religion and culture prevalent since ancient times. How this will impact the work of the Nepali churches, including the Methodist Church in Nepal (MCN), will become clearer in the coming years. In the meantime, the Nepali government is focused on managing the dissent of the minority ethnic groups that have been far from happy with the new constitution and on following up on its plans for the rebuilding process after recent earthquakes.
Since the declaration of the new constitution, Nepal has been affected by demonstrations from these disenchanted parties. These demonstrations near the border entry/exit points with India have affected the flow of goods from India, particularly petroleum-related products such as petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Due to these shortages, the Nepal
government has instituted rationing of petroleum-related products, affecting both public and private transportation including commercial flights at its international airport. (This is still in force at the time of this article’s writing.)
Furthermore, the rationing and difficulties in obtaining LPG for both homes and businesses have seen families resorting to firewood to meet their domestic needs. Restaurants and food outlets have closed due to non-availability of LPG tanks. Suddenly, the aftermath of the earthquakes has taken a lower prominence. With winter approaching, the concerns for the welfare of families who have lost homes have been compounded by their daily needs for provisions of food and water as a result of the limited supply from India.
As MCN prepares its post-earthquake rebuilding programme for affected families in the districts where our churches and preaching points are located, it also has to look into addressing the basic needs of these families should the supply situation show no signs of improvement. Our MCN pastors and leaders are working closely with their congregation and surrounding community to identify areas where assistance can be provided. The shortage of petrol and diesel has affected the movement of our pastors who have to resort to other means of transport such as bicycles and walking.
Nonetheless, being Nepali, their resilience will see them through this difficult phase of their country’s development. More significantly, their belief and faith in our loving and caring Father will grow stronger, and will enable them to truly experience God’s providence and grace and to share such experiences with their neighbours and friends.
Let us continue to keep Nepal in prayer as we intercede for its people.