Nepal – Christians Fight for Burial Rights

KATHMANDU, Nepal, (Compass Direct News) – Three years after the death of a Christian who was a captain in the Nepal Army, his widow, Gamala Guide, faces fresh grief. The grave of her husband, Narayan Guide, is threatened with destruction as authorities of Nepal’s most powerful Hindu temple are reclaiming the forested land where it is located. At least 200 graves, many of them unmarked due to Christians’ fear of discovery and destruction, could share the same fate. The Pashupatinath Area Development Trust, which administers the Pashupatinath temple, has begun renovating the shrine as Nepal celebrates 2011 as its “tourism year” with the goal of attracting 1 million visitors. Ram Saran Chimoria, director of the trust, said part of the forest is also meant to be used for Hindu burials, and that it is “the responsibility of the government to allot burial grounds to non-Hindus, not the trust’s.” An increasingly angry Christian community, tired of petitioning the government for an official burial ground, is now seeking stronger measures. “Nepal became secular in 2006, and two years later, we petitioned the prime minister, the culture minister and the top human rights agency in Nepal, saying that in a secular democracy Christians should have the same rights as others and should be given their own burial ground,” said C.B. Gahatraj, general secretary of a Christian committee formed to provide recommendations to parliament, which is drafting a new constitution. “We understand the temple’s position. But the state should understand ours, too.”

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