Friday, May 19, 2017

The 'No Conversion' Issue in Nepal-To Convert or Not to Convert?

I definitely love living in Nepal. I love the culture, so exotic, so old. The government/police really try to make tourists welcome, too. They have a branch of the police just for tourists, so in case you get into trouble you really should have the phone number handy. 

I hope I'm not going to offend too many readers, but I think this issue needs to have the light shone on it. If you are moved by your love of your faith to come to Nepal and help plant, rebuild or provide medical care, please do. It's a wonderful demonstration of faith to reach out and help someone who cannot reciprocate. But if you want to come and convert Nepali I hope you can understand my concern. I really don't believe most Christians/Moslums think about it from this prospective. 

There are only a couple things a tourist is likely to get into trouble for, one being not paying for trekking permits and the other is converting a Nepali to Christianity. On this issue I really need to agree with the government. Hinduism and Buddhism are so engrained into the culture that bringing Islam or Christianity causes problems.

I stayed at a guest house a few years ago with a Christian manager. It was near Christmas time and I wasn’t actually sure he was really Christian or just wanted a Christmas present. He told me that ‘We believe in the Invisible God,‘ as if whiteness were a symptom of the religion. 

Some of the things I personally take issue with is that Christians believe God likes them better than he does Hindus or Buddhists. Be that as it may, it’s difficult to believe a supreme being would punish these people who are clearly more humble than the average Christian. If you want to pray for them please pray not that they convert, but that God sees the good in their hearts.

Regardless as to the eternal damnation possibility, the problems Christianity causes within families and villages is definitely disruptive, to say the least. It causes problems within families because the converts are unable to celebrate festivals and traditions. This indigenous society celebrates ancient traditions during most full or new moons, harvests, births, first haircut, etc. which converts are no longer able to enjoy. The festivals serve as a binding influence and without them families ties are broken. 

Often Christians see animals being sacraficed and think it's inhumane. The truth is that the animals are eaten by the villagers as a village celebration and openly share the food. The animals here are free range. Cars and motorcycles often have to stop for goats, buffalo or chickens as they graze freely throughout the villages. When I compare the freedom our animals enjoy to the way chickens and cattle are raised in the West I'd much rather eat a Nepali raised goat than anything from the US. The torture baby calves endour in the US is an abomination.

Back to the customs of Nepali, one festival celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. No matter what happens personally between family members, they must get together each year to tika each other. This allows such a lovely opportunity for forgiveness and a reconnection. As a Christian, the Nepali convert must sever ties with their families and abstain from such pagan customs. 

The other issue I have is that the Nepali don’t always understand the underlying issues/principles. Many times it’s just a matter of an INGO/missionaries coming with programs to help alleviate poverty and the Nepali, like anyone else, will do anything if they are hungry enough, anything to feed their own families. But no matter which variety, Islam, Catholic, or fundemental Christianity the people continue to remain in poverty.

An example is our recent project of giving clothing to the abject poor at the river with our guests, Jolanda and Hank, at There is an INGO right there with a dining room/worship center. The people are so poor they will come for the food and follow Jesus so they will have food each evening. The other people who have already converted will make them feel guilty about taking the food if they do not convert. There is always that expectation of conversion.

Here is a video that demonstrates the culture that awaits those who give up their roots in exchange for a promise that they already had from Hinduism/Buddism/Islam. It’s all the same promise, isn’t it? God likes one group and hates the rest, doesn’t He? And isn’t that the point? It’s easy to allow the emotional high of a church service to encourage conversion. It's part of the human condition to join in, to go where the food is.

Hinduism has been taking care of the Nepali’s spiritual needs even before Abraham 'walked with God.' That was just about the time the Newar community migrated from Sumaria and brought Lord Bhirab with them. Bhirab is still a part of this culture and is likely to be the oldest of all the gods still being worshipped. 

I guess my point is that if it isn’t broke don’t try fixing it because it just creates confusion and alienates people from their families. Seriously, is this really an improvement over local, cultural traditions?

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