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Bhutan Facts

Score:61/ 100
Region:Asia
Persecution Type:Religious nationalism
Persecution Level:Very High
Population:826,000
Christians:30,000
Main Religion:Buddhism
Government:Constitutional monarchy
Leader:King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

Profile of Persecution

Violence 80%
Church Life 83%
National Life 70%
Community Life 71%
Family Life 65%
Private Life 77%

Christians pressured to abandon their faith

All Bhutanese citizens are expected to follow Buddhism. Converts to Christianity are watched with suspicion and often face pressure to return to their former religion. Religious leaders, the local community and family often cooperate in trying to persuade converts to abandon their Christian faith. No churches have official recognition by the state, which means that Christians are technically worshiping illegally. Local authorities often refuse to issue Christians with a certificate needed for loans, jobs and more. Persecution in Bhutan has never been particularly violent, and no violence was reported this year however violence can often go unreported.

How Christians are suffering

A continuing emphasis on Mahayana Buddhism as the country’s spiritual heritage makes life hard for the Christian minority. Because no Christian congregation has ever been allowed to build a church structure, all Christian fellowships remain underground. Especially in rural areas, Buddhist monks oppose the presence of Christians with impunity; authorities do nothing to protect Christians and most often side with the monks.

For converts, family members are by far the strongest sources of persecution. Life in Bhutan is still very communal, and the proximity and protection of family is important. For that reason, disownment by their families is a costly risk.

Examples during the World Watch List reporting period

One house church was forced to close and cease meetings after receiving warnings and threats from authorities. Two pastors were held for questioning.

Christian students were reportedly forced to participate in morning and evening Buddhist rituals and in one instance, even in cleaning Buddhist shrines.

One of the traditions of Bhutanese farmers is community planting and harvesting, where several farmers share the workload and help each other. Christian farmers are usually excluded from these communal gatherings.

Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed April 2019).
Number of Christians statistic is an Open Doors estimate.

Pray for Bhutan

  • Christian students have reportedly been forced to participate in morning and evening Buddhist rituals and in one instance, even in cleaning Buddhist shrines. Pray believers would no longer be forced to participate in these rituals.
  • Pray for Christian farmers who are discriminated against because of their faith. Pray they will find support and strength that can only come from God.
  • Christians seeking employment face challenges, as they are a minority. They are victims of discrimination and are short of options for income. They often have to live in difficult economic and social circumstances. Pray God would provide for all of their needs.

Stories from Bhutan

January 15, 2020

Every day, 8 Christians killed for their decision to follow Jesus

In-depth research for Open Doors' 2020 World Watch List shows that at least eight Christians, largely in Sub-Saharan Africa, die at the hands of persecutors (extremists, family members and state authorities) each day. Read More

+ READ MORE

February 6, 2018

Pray for a Young Woman in Bhutan Disowned by Her Family

She was given the choice to leave the family or leave Jesus Christ. Read More

+ READ MORE