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Bhutan: persecuted Christians, prospect of religious freedom

Catholic World News - April 18, 2011

The landlocked nation of Bhutan, where Christians face the demolition of their homes and other acts of persecution, may soon recognize religious freedom, according to an Indian archbishop.

Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, a nearby Indian diocese, told the Fides news agency that Christians are allowed to worship in private but are not permitted to give public witness to their faith. Conversions are forbidden. Only 1,000 of the nation’s 2.6 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics, and Indian priests visit periodically to offer Mass. Estimates of the number of Christians in the nation run as high as 100,000.

“I would say that they are just like the first Christians who gathered in the catacombs,” said Archbishop Menamparampil. “I met and encouraged them to preserve their faith.”

“The Christian citizens do not get a job or a promotion or admission to higher education, only for their faith,” he added. “Sometimes to penalize the community, electricity may be cut off, or [the] water supply may be stopped and houses demolished. However, I did not find any of the Christians discouraged or over-worried about these episodes: they have lived harder times.”

“The authorities are introducing more liberal measures step by step,” he continued. “Christians hope to be allowed to build places of worship in due time, but they will need to be cautious and not alarm the lobby of the Buddhist monks, who are very powerful on the government.”

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