On Sunday, April 25, as many Christians gathered in church buildings and other Nepalese opened their shops and tended their flocks, the ground began to shake violently. The earthquake, with its epicenter in the Himalayas, killed over 8,000 people. Immediately after the earthquake, Open Doors sent in a relief team to visit the affected Christians to bring them what they needed most: food and encouragement.
The Open Doors team quickly discovered that the Nepalese Christians are being discriminated against because of their faith. Nepal, which has been a Hindu kingdom in the past, has a Christian minority of approximately 1.4 percent. With the rising influence of Hindu extremism in India, life is becoming difficult for Christians in Nepal, especially after the earthquake.
“I saw my wife standing shocked, her eyes red. She was tightly holding our two sons close to her. I tried to pull all three of them to safety, but the roof of the building fell, killing all three of them instantly.” said Suresh Shreshtha, leader of the Alpha Church in Sindupalchok. Suresh lost his entire family.
Sixty-three people were present in his church when the earthquake struck. The building was two stories high and the service was being held on the ground floor. As the building swayed uncontrollably in the earthquake, people ran toward the door in an attempt to save their lives. Bricks and wooden logs from the roof and walls had started falling when Suresh began to search for his family in the crowd.
He spotted his youngest son, Samarpan, 5, on the floor. He rushed and picked up the little boy in his arms, only to find him dead. “His head was bleeding. When I held him close to me I realized he was already dead. I hugged and kissed him with tears and handed him over to somebody outside the church building,” Suresh told the Open Doors staff.
Suresh’s house was also completely destroyed in the earthquake. In fact, 23 families of Alpha Church lost their houses in the earthquake and are living in tents outside the church.
Apart from Suresh’s family, two more dead people were pulled from the rubble that day while two dead bodies remain buried. “There are two bodies still in the heap of rubble which we were unable to pull out,” mentions Suresh. “The church premises have a bad odor because of the dead bodies.”
Sitaram Shreshtha, Suresh’s brother, added, “We requested help from government officials many times to help us remove the dead bodies from the rubble, but no one has come to date. They ignore us because we are Christians. In fact, the whole village discriminates against us because of our faith.”
People in the village accuse this Christian community of luring people to the Christian faith.
“The non-Christian villagers protested and threw stones at the church members when they tried to camp in the vacant fields nearby,” he continues. “They had to camp on the church premises despite the odor.”
Open Doors staff visited Suresh and the Alpha Church members a week after the incident. Amazingly, despite the recent tragedy he had suffered, Suresh could be seen comforting other believers, reminding them of the hope they have in Christ.
However, when sharing his agony with an Open Doors staff worker, he was almost in tears. “This loss is too difficult for me to bear,” he said. “I cannot express the pain I have felt. However, the Lord has comforted me. A few days before the incident, the Lord spoke to me through his Word and told me that I would undergo great suffering, but He promised to wipe away all my tears. When I remembered this, I felt His peace.”
Despite the difficulties in the country, it was astonishing to discover how Christianity has grown in recent years. Many villages in the interior parts of the country are home to thousands of Christians. No vehicles can reach these villages. Open Doors visited some of these villages and provided them with aid, but there are many distant villages that can be reached only if one walks for two to three days. They are located in hilly regions and there are no roads connecting them. Landslides have made them all the more unreachable.
There are numerous Christians in Nepal that are not receiving aid because they are discriminated against and often reside in villages which are very remote and difficult to reach. In such scenarios, prayer is the greatest support we can give them.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.