Population: 750,000 (20,000 Christians)
Main Religion: Mahayana Buddhism
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Source of Persecution: Religious militancy/tribal antagonism
Despite its transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy, Buddhism continues to play a dominant role in Bhutan. The constitution promotes religious tolerance, but parliament is still considering an amendment to the penal code aimed at prohibiting ‘conversion by coercion or inducement’. Christians can generally meet in private homes without government interference, but the authorities restrict the construction of non-Buddhist places of worship and the celebration of some non-Buddhist festivals. Although reports of Christians being arrested or physically harmed are decreasing, believers still face harassment.
- The media portrays Christians negatively. Pray for positive change in society’s attitude to Christianity
- The church lacks trained leaders. Pray for training opportunities for pastors and church workers
- That the transition to a more democratic rule would bring genuine change for religious minorities.
[Local Bhutanese spinning the prayer wheels at a monastery in Bumthang during a mass noviciation ceremony, as seen on a Cox & Kings holiday (www.coxandkings.co.uk)]
Bhutan was a Buddhist kingdom for centuries and even now, after introducing a constitutional monarchy and democracy, Buddhism plays a dominant role. The monarch is deemed to be the protector of all faiths in Bhutan, which includes Hindus and a small, albeit increasing, number of Christians. However, there is a lot of pressure on Christians from the local community, especially local administrators who deny meetings and put obstacles in the way of believers. Although the constitution of Bhutan promotes secularism and religious tolerance, it also labels Buddhism as the ‘spiritual heritage’ of the country.
The church in Bhutan is no longer an underground church and Christians are able to meet in private homes on Sundays, generally without interference from the authorities. Reports of Christians being arrested, physically harmed or otherwise badly treated remain on the decline but they still face harassment. The media has not helped the Christians’ case and Christianity is viewed as a religion that brings the sort of chaos and division in society that Bhutan shuns.
Karen*is a Christian teenager in Bhutan and has asked us to pray for her parents who are non-Christians. “My mom and dad are still orthodox Hindus,” she said. “Please continue praying for them.”
After finishing high school, Karen took a job at a beverage factory and moved out of her home town. She is staying at a cousin’s place at one of the border areas in southern Bhutan, where Hindu communities thrive. In her new surroundings, Karen’s newfound hope is tested.
“My uncle’s eldest son beat me when he discovered I was a Christian,” Karen says. “Please pray for him too; pray that he discovers the Lord Jesus Christ.” But Karen does not give up her faith. She continues attending the house church in her new village.
Karen’s steadiness in the faith has been evident also at work, and she was promoted as a result. “From the packaging section, I am now assigned to work at the counters. May God continue to grant me favor.”
Please continue to pray for Karen as she grows in her faith, despite the persecution that she faces.
*Karen’s real name and other details about her are withheld for her security. She is the only Christian in her family.