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Govt bows to Christians over church wall

A missing retaining wall raises suspicions of religous bias

A church overlooks a newly widened road in Nepal, which advocates say has endangered a local church A church overlooks a newly widened road in Nepal, which advocates say has endangered a local church
  • Chirendra Satyal, Kathmandu
  • Nepal
  • July 9, 2012
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Government officials promised to build a retaining wall for a church in remote Nuwakot, after Christian rights’ advocates brought the matter to the attention of the media yesterday.

A road expansion project has left the church in danger of collapse, while the embankment on either side has been fortified, the advocates said.

“Any suspicions that we did not build a retention wall there because a church was above it are unfounded,” said Deepak Shrestha, head of the road department in the area. “It was just a difficult turn along the road, and we planned to do it later.”

Shrestha’s pledge came after a dozen people from rights groups Freedom for All and the Nepal Christian Federation travelled to the region 90 km from Kathmandu to support the Protestant church.

“Some locals started saying that Christians were rich enough to even build a wall of gold and the government had other things to do,” said Govinda Khadga, pastor of the church.

The church bought the 25,000 square feet of land at 2.5 million rupees (US$28,000) in 2010.

Pastor Chari Gahatraj, secretary of the Christian Federation, said the group would seek compensation from the government if the building, which is still under construction, was damaged by a landslide.

Pastor Gahatraj also said Christians should improve relations with the media and government so that “Christians will not be treated as second-class citizens in Nepal anymore.” He said police in Kathmandu have started helping Christians more and recently caught two people accused of threatening and attempting to extort pastors in the city.

Christians represent less than 1 percent of Nepal’s population, which is 80 percent Hindu and 10 percent Buddhist. In 2006, with the dismantling of the monarchy, the Nepalese government pledged to become a secular state.

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