Despite being a tiny minority, Catholics in Nepal carry out missionary work

People rejoice in the streets of Katmandu, Nepal, in May 2008 as the Himalayan nation celebrated its first day as a republic following the abolition of its 239-year-old Hindu monarchy. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Yes, there’s a Catholic presence in Nepal. It’s not large, but it’s there.

It’s all of about 7,500 people in a predominantly Hindu country of 28.5 million.

Father Silas Bogati, executive director of Caritas Nepal, wants people in the U.S. to know the Catholic community is prospering despite its tiny size.

Father Bogati recently visited Catholic News Service to discuss the work of Caritas Nepal.

The agency has been a leader in resettlement efforts for some of the 120,000 Lhotshampa, the Nepali-speaking Hindu people from southern Bhutan who have been forced to leave their majority Buddhist homeland since the early 1990s. Caritas Nepal also runs a network of schools that has enrolled up to 40,000 students at any one time.

The program has a human trafficking prevention program , promotes human rights and the rights of women and a peace building educational project.

Overall, Caritas Nepal has a $3.5 million budget and regularly partners with the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services.

Catholics have a presence in 40 of the 75 districts in the country, which is the size of Arkansas and has seven of the world’s 10 highest mountain peaks.

Father Bogati said the country has progressed since 2006, when a Maoist-led 10-year civil war ended. The war and related protests led the country’s monarchy to step down in favor of a parliamentary form of government.

Problems still arise from time to time for the church though. In May the Church of the Assumption in Katmandu was bombed during Mass. Two people were killed and a dozen were wounded in the attack. But such incidents are not discouraging the church from carrying out its ministries, Father Bogati said.

Nepal continues to work its way through a negotiated peace process that began at the war’s end. Father Bogati described it as “one step forward, two steps back.”

“If the international community could see to it that they don’t abandon us at the critical juncture, it would be a tremendous help in the peace process,” he said.

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