|Persecution Type:||Religious Nationalism|
|Persecution Level:||Very High|
|Leader:||King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck|
Buddhism is part of the national fabric of Bhutan, and no Christian congregation has ever been allowed to build a church structure there. All Christian fellowships remain underground due to the fear of Christian persecution. Especially in rural areas, Buddhist monks oppose the presence of Christians. The government is intent on maintaining a strong national identity and unity by suppressing “foreign” elements, including Christianity.
According to the government, the definition of Bhutanese identity is Buddhism, and it works to eliminate groups perceived as threats.
The government upholds Buddhist beliefs as the country’s “national heritage,” according to Bhutan’s constitution and does not recognize a clear distinction of religion and state. Therefore, one could say that the government is operating on two levels: On one level, government officials are drivers of persecution as executors of state power; on another level, they are followers of Buddhism and the country’s spiritual heritage.
Buddhist, and at times even Hindu, leaders are drivers of persecution as well. The merging of ethnic beliefs with Buddhism causes additional possibilities for persecution. Christians refusing to follow both Buddhist beliefs and ethnic traditional rites are more likely to face persecution. This is especially true for Christians coming from the central and eastern part of the country. For converts, family members are another strong driver of persecution.
Converts to Christianity will be watched with suspicion followed by attempts to bring them back to their old religion. Religious leaders, the local community and family often cooperate in this. No churches have official recognition by the state, which means that Christians are technically worshipping illegally.
One young student was forced to repeat her final year for no other reason than the fact she was known to be a Christian.
House churches were forced to close down and cease meeting after receiving warnings and threats from the authorities. For security reasons, information on time and places are withheld.
One of the traditions of farmers in Bhutan is community planting and harvesting, where several farmers share the workload and help each other. Christian farmers are usually excluded from this practice.