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Rebuilding Nepal isn't just about providing basics

As the Himalayan nation struggles to recover from last year's earthquake, faith-based organizations continue to offer hope

Prakash Khadka, Kathmandu

Prakash Khadka, Kathmandu

Published: February 10, 2016 04:06 AM GMT

Updated: February 10, 2016 07:01 AM GMT

Rebuilding Nepal isn't just about providing basics

A Nepalese woman and her child near temporary shelters in Laprak village. Ten months after a massive earthquake hit Nepal, thousands of survivors are fighting subzero temperatures in flimsy temporary shelters, awaiting help to rebuild their homes. (Photo by AFP)

As a child growing up in the Nepalese district of Gorkha the best medical treatment was provided by mission hospitals. What they gave was also affordable enough for the poor.

With age I came to realize that such faith-based organizations offered the underprivileged and marginalized in our remote areas with an exceptional service that was deeply appreciated. I also discovered when these hospitals were handed over to the government to run, their standards dropped.

Since World War ll, church groups have provided Nepal with missionary schools, hospitals and other important infrastructure developments. Through that time they have brought tremendous change to the lives of many Nepalese.

When the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the country on April 25 last year, it was those faith-based groups already on the ground who were able to provide assistance to many of those in need and do so promptly.

Given the scale of the disaster, millions of people across the nation suffered severely and many of them still remain without adequate housing, food and warm clothes.

Taking part in relief efforts, our congregations ventured into remote mountainous areas to provide people with assistance. Substantial numbers of other faith-based groups did the same.

But Nepal's reconstruction effort shouldn't just about providing shelter and rebuilding infrastructure needs. It's not just about the basics of life.

The people of Nepal need to get their smile back.

Outside of the earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people, the fallout of the country's decadelong Maoist insurgency still hampers our development. While the conflict ended in 2006, there have been severe issues of transitional justice that remain unsolved. Now the earthquake has further paralyzed what is an ineffectual central government that has yet to show how it can effectively manage the reconstruction of the country.

Since 1997, no local government elections have been held. In fact government at local levels now hardly even exists. I have been in places where people have to walk for at least two or three days just to fill out minor paper work. There are places in our district where there is no way that government can provide it with even basic services.

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Those services that the government does run are plagued by rampant corruption. When it comes to corruption levels, Nepal ranks among the world's worst.

Social malpractices, discrimination and abuse of political powers have affected the nation for as long as I can remember.

Our country also ranks poorly when it comes to human development and we are noted as a source of supply for human traffickers.

 

Nepalese children play in a shantytown on the banks of the Bagmati river in Kathmandu. More than a third of Nepal's children live below the poverty line. (Photo by AFP)

 

We also live in a divided country. To help us bridge the widening gap between the rural and urban populations, we need to increase our investment in agriculture, industry and infrastructure.

But Nepal is not only poor because of a lack of resources or infrastructure. The country, I believe, has been mismanaged because it is suffering from a spiritual malaise.

While we see the majority of the people in economic poverty, many of the people also suffer from spiritual deficiency. High degrees of malpractices in the name of religion prevail. Even though the majority of Nepalese are highly devoted toward a religious belief, it is often misguided.

Societies in Nepal have been trapped by gross social evils and cultural delusions.

With this in mind, the reconstruction of our Himalayan nation is not just about restoring buildings and providing the people with the basics but about offering spiritual renewal and hope.

Overcoming both material and spiritual poverty are the greatest challenge that missionaries have in rebuilding communities in Nepal.     

There is no doubt that value-based organizations have gone beyond providing emergency and reconstruction support. They can assist in building a new and transformed community.

The disasters that have fallen upon Nepal has created the opportunity where missions can work together more closely to better assist the Nepalese people beyond the material sense.

It should be done holistically without the proselytization, of which we are often accused. We are here to bring hope and save lives. We are the messengers of God's love for his people.

While life in Nepal has not been easy since the earthquake, we are not crushed. As we celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us play our role in offering hope to the Nepalese. We have been asked to welcome and experience God's love, which re-creates, transforms and reforms life. These are things that Nepal needs in abundance.

Finally though have we done enough reflection on our actions? Have our deeds included transferring the power of Gospel into the lives of Nepal's impoverished?

We have been called to assist God's plan for his people until every individual, community and society has been reached. It's not just an issue for Nepal; globally let's create a safer community. Let us all see how we can build a better world so to safeguard the future for all of humankind. 

Prakash Khadka is a Catholic peace and human rights activist as well as the Nepal representative of Pax Romana, the international Catholic movement for intellectual and cultural affairs.

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