Christianity in Bhutan

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The French Internet site "Aide à l'Eglise en détresse" (Aid to the Church in Need) puts the figure of Christians in Bhutan at 12,255, with 1,000 Roman Catholics, making it a total of 0.9% of the population. The population also consists of 84% Buddhists, 11.4% Hindus, 3.4% Animists and 0.3% uncategorized.[1]

Origins[edit]

In 1627 two Pourtugese Jesuits, Fr. Estêvão Cacella and Fr. João Cabral, traveling from Cochin and attempting to make a new route to the Jesuit mission in Shigatse, Tibet,[2] visited Bhutan. While in Bhutan, Father Cacella and Father Cabral met Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder and religious leader of the Bhutanese state, and spent months in his court. The "Zhabdrung strongly encouraged the Jesuits to stay and even allowed them to use a room in Cheri [Monastery] as a chapel, granted them land in Paro to build a church and sent some of his own attendants to join the congregation. With no success in conversion and despite much discouragement from the Zhabdrung against their departure, the Jesuits eventually left for Tibet" [3] At the end of a stay of nearly eight months in the country, Father Cacella wrote a long letter from Cheri Monastery, to his superior in Cochin in the Malabar Coast; it was a report, The Relacao, relating the progress of their travels. Their visit is also corroborated in contemporaneous Bhutanese sources, including the biography of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. [4]

The 2008 Constitution[edit]

Article 7 of the 2008 constitution guarantees religious freedom, but also forbids conversion 'by means of coercion or inducement'. [5] According to Open Doors, this hinders the ability of Christians to proselytize.[6]

Christian communities[edit]

There is a relatively large Christian population in Southern Bhutan. [7]

Roman Catholics[edit]

Territorially, Roman Catholics in Bhutan belong to the Diocese of Darjeeling in India.[8]

Protestants[edit]

There are more Protestants than Catholics in Bhutan. [9]

Mahayana Buddhism as state religion[edit]

Main article: Buddhism in Bhutan

Mahayana Buddhism is the State religion of Bhutan.[10] Bhutan is the last remaining country in which Buddhism in its tantric, vajrayana form, also called lamaism, is the state religion.[11]

According to Article 3 of the 2008 Constitution, "Buddhism is the spiritual heritage of Bhutan, which promotes the principles and values of peace, non-violence, compassion and tolerance". "The Druk Gyalpo [or King] is the protector of all religions in Bhutan". Article 3 stipulates that "It shall be the responsibility of religious institutions and personalities to promote the spiritual heritage of the country while also ensuring that religion remains separate from politics in Bhutan. Religious institutions and personalities shall remain above politics."

Because the constitution itself states that the spiritual heritage of Bhutan is Buddhism and it also says "It shall be the responsibility of religious institutions and personalities to promote the spiritual heritage", implies that it is the responsibility of other religions to promote Buddhism, which in effect imposes politically via the constitution, Buddhism as the national religion.

Restrictions on the Christian faith[edit]

Before 2008[edit]

  • In 2002 : According to a 2002 report cited by the Bhutanese Christians Services Centre NGO, "the 65,000 Christians [in the country] have only one church at their disposal."[12]
  • In 2006 : According to Mission Network News, "it's illegal for a Buddhist to become a Christian and church buildings are forbidden. (...) Christians in Bhutan are only allowed to practice their faith at home. Those who openly choose to follow Christ can be expelled from Bhutan and stripped of their citizenship."[13]
  • In 2007 : According to Gospel for Asia, "the government has recently begun clamping down on Christians by barring some congregations from meeting for worship. This has caused at least two Gospel for Asia-affiliated churches to temporarily close their doors. (...) Under Bhutan law, it is illegal to attempt to convert people from the country’s two predominant religions [Buddhism and Hinduism]."[14]

After 2008[edit]

According to the "Open Doors" ONG, "Persecution in Buddhist Bhutan mainly comes from the family, the community, and the monks who yield a strong influence in the society. Cases of atrocities (i.e. beatings) have been decreasing in number; this may continue as a result of major changes in the country, including the implementation of a new constitution guaranteeing greater religious liberty." [15]

Proselytizing[edit]

According to the U. S. State Department's 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom no forced religious conversion has been known. [16]

Christian media[edit]

The Bhutanese Christians Services Centre is an NGO informing on persecution of Christians in Bhutan. [17] The Gospel for Asia radio broadcasts in five languages reaching Bhutan. [18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bhoutan, Aide à l'Église en détresse, "Appartenance religieuse".
  2. ^ David M. Malone (March 2008). "Our Man in Bhutan". Literary Review of Canada. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  3. ^ Karma Phuntsho (2013). The History of Bhutan. Random House India. pp. 224–227. ISBN 9788184003116. 
  4. ^ gTsang mKhan-chen ’Jam-dbyangs dPal-ldan rGyamtsho (c.1675). Dpal ’brug pa rin po che ngag dbang rnam rgyal gyi rnam par thar pa rgyas pa chos kyi sprin chen po’i dbyangs, in 5 parts (Ka - Ca) and a supplement (Cha).Reprint by Topden Tshering entitled The Detailed Biography of the First Zabs-drung Rinpoche of Bhutan Ngag-dbang-rnam-rgyal (Ngag-dbang-bdud-’joms-rdo-rje) (Dolanji, 1974, from the Punakha woodblocks of ca. 1797-1802)
  5. ^ The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Royal Government of Bhutan. 2008. p. 14. 
  6. ^ Bhutan, Open Doors.
  7. ^ "Persecuted Countries: Bhutan". 
  8. ^ [1], Bhoutan, sur le site Aide à l'Église en détresse: "[le] diocèse indien de Darjeeling [...] inclut dans son territoire la petite nation du Bhoutan" (i.e. "the Indian diocese of Darjeeling [...] includes the small nation of Bhutan in its sphere."
  9. ^ "Catholic Online". 
  10. ^ Bhutan, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, State Department.
  11. ^ Malgré la liberté de religion inscrite dans la Constitution, les chrétiens ne peuvent toujours ni pratiquer en public, ni construire de lieux de culte (Bulletin EDA n° 524), sur le site EDA (Églises d'Asie), Agence d'information des missions étrangères de Paris.
  12. ^ Reports on Situation of Christians in Bhutan, Bhutan4Christ.
  13. ^ Leadership change in Bhutan sparks hope for ministry, Mission Network News, 26 December, 2006.
  14. ^ Bhutanese Christians Barred from Attending Worship Services, Gospel For Asia,July 5, 2007.
  15. ^ 'New Research Shows Christians Worldwide Facing Increasing Hostility in Practising Their Faith', Says Open Doors, Press Release, 13 February 2009.
  16. ^ "U. S. State Department's 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom". 
  17. ^ "Bhutan Society and Culture". 
  18. ^ "Mission Network News". 

See also[edit]