Situated in the treacherous terrain of the Himalayas between India and Communist China, Bhutan is the only official Buddhist kingdom in the world. The Drukpa sect of Kagyupa Buddhism (a branch of Tibetan Buddhism) is the state religion. Buddhism is considered an integral part of Bhutanese national identity. There is a close relationship between state power and Buddhist priesthood. Non-Buddhists suffer political and social discrimination. Hinduism is also a recognized religion in Bhutan. Proselytism and conversion to other faiths are strictly prohibited.
Bhutan remained closed to Christianity until 1965. Through the fervent witness of Christians inside Bhutan and on the Indian border, the number of believers has grown steadily in the past 25 years. Sadly, the increase in converts has brought renewed restrictions.
Since October 2000, the government of Bhutan has embarked on a sustained campaign against the Christian minority in the country. Christians in the south, in particular, have come under severe pressure from the authorities to renounce their faith.
Encouraged by Buddhist clerics who claim that Christianity brings division to the nation, regional officials have intensified their repression of the few existing house churches. Christians are forced to pledge in writing not to gather to worship or to proselytize.
The penalties for defying such undertakings include withdrawal of all state benefits, loss of free education for their children, loss of promotion and training opportunities, termination of employment, cancellation of trade licenses, restriction of movement and, for repeated offences, exile.
Christians are asked to give details of their conversions and to sign forms to renounce their faith.
Reports have been received that believers from remote villages in the districts of Chirang, Surband and Tongsa were rounded up by local officials and severely beaten.
Those who refused to renounce Christianity were imprisoned and brutally beaten for several days. Others were forced to carry sandbags as a punishment. Some who suffered broken ribs and arms as a result of the torture were refused hospital treatment for their injuries. Those who gave in to the torture were forced to brew liquor and perform rituals to prove they had recanted.
Many Christians among the Nepali population were asked by the district authorities to either leave Christianity or leave the country.
According to the Center for Protection of Minorities and Against Racism and Discrimination in Bhutan, Christians in Chirang have been denied water supply, electricity, timber permits and firewood permits. The authorities also instigated communal attacks against them. The authorities are very sensitive to Christians receiving support from the West. They are particularly suspicious of any Christian possessing a tape recorder or a television set.
The Census Officers often mark the names of Christians in the register and threaten to delete their details if they refuse to renounce their faith. There is a very strong possibility of the eviction of Christian minorities from Bhutan in the near future. The State has recently taken a more proactive stance in closing down church meetings in public places. In the beginning of April 2001, authorities and police interrupted church meetings to record the names of believers. Many fled in fear of being identified and punished. Some pastors were detained for interrogation and threatened with imprisonment. Police closed some church groups and demanded that they cease all public worship and evangelistic activities.
From April 8 2001, Christians are no longer allowed to rent premises for their religious activities including Sunday worship. Christian activities in other regions are closely monitored by the state security forces. Christians in some areas are meeting in the middle of the night for fear of persecution from the authorities.
In the capital, Thimpu, because of the presence of international aid agencies, the Bhutanese authorities have been more diplomatic in their dealings with Christians.
Bhutanese refugees are Lhotshampas ("southerners"), a group of people of Nepali origin including the Kirat, Tamang, and Gurung peoples. These refugees registered in refugee camps in eastern Nepal during the 1990s as Bhutanese citizens deported from Bhutan. To know more about our history we have got this link for you to follow:http://bhutanesestudents.blogspot.com/p/where-is-bhutan-if-refugees-are.html?m=1
After two decades of our life in a Bhutanese Refugee camp in Nepal God opened us the way to United States of America. We got a wonderful opportunity to serve God here in this country. Today God has brought lots of lost in our ministry here in this city.