Monday, December 5, 2011

Nepal's government makes promises for a new future...again

Nepal (MNN) ― Thousands of former Maoist rebels are going home. A truce between political parties was the catalyst to talks on how to restructure Nepal.

The rebel stand down is significant considering the elections in 2008 yielded not one, but five coalition governments.
Yet, no constitution to govern the country is in place. Nepal's Constituent Assembly failed to meet its own deadlines for a draft time and again. Lawmakers amended the interim Constitution and gave themselves another allowance. 

Danny Punnose with Gospel For Asia says it's the last one. "What's happened so far is there's been deadlock for years now. The Supreme Court and others have given extensions, and now it's to the place where if they don't get this first draft even written, the present government will be dissolved." The deadline now to write the Constitution is May 30. 

After that, if nothing is in place, "You go back to no one leading the country, which is kind of a dangerous thing right now." 
The uncertainty has neighboring countries jittery, especially in light of the chaos that comes with lack of leadership. 

Punnose explains, "Usually, when people get scared and things get out of hand, what happens is the first default option is a strike or a national shutdown of everything. It does cause transportation difficulty. Prices and goods go up. Our people can't travel to the churches and things like that."

Aside from the crisis of government, another issue cropped up. According to a report from Compass Direct News, days before the deadline, the Nepal Defense Army (NDA)--a militant armed group that has terrorized Christians and Muslims--set off an explosive in front of a charity office, attacked preachers, and razed a church building.  

Christians are often scapegoats in times of uncertainty. However, that won't stop Gospel teams from working. They're more concerned with the possibility that Nepal's Maoist political party will call a bandh--a strike enforced by threats of violence.

The last time Maoists called a bandh, they threatened to continue it until they had complete control of the government. To that threat, Punnose says, "I think what we find is that they don't want to write the draft, because then whatever they write as adding into freedoms of faith and those kinds of things, they have to stand by it. It's easier to put it off than to actually uphold what you know you have to do."

bandh makes it impossible for Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries to work. Church services are also cancelled.

"We need to pray that God would give wisdom and grace to these political leaders to be able to write this constitution and then uphold what they've written," says Punnose. Pray also that "when they write, there would be freedom of faith within the constitution."

Elected officials say Maoists are stalling and blocking any attempt to create legislation. Gospel for Asia leaders in Nepal are asking for prayer. "Pray for the country as a whole, that there wouldn't be a lockdown or a strike that just shuts down everything, because it does hinder the ministry from going forward."

Punnose also asks for prayer that the citizens of Nepal would have true freedom of religion and that the country would not turn back to its old system of having a national faith. "Pray for the protection of Gospel for Asia workers, plus the others what are working there, that God would protect them."

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