The main goals of the NBS is to translate, publish and distribute Bibles and related materials and to make them available in different languages, formats and sizes to meet people’s Scripture needs.
To make the Word of God available to the people of Nepal at a price they can afford, from a place they can access, in a format they appreciate and in the language they understand, so that they believe in the True Living God.
First Temporary Arrival of Christian in Nepal
As far as is known today, the first Catholic priest to enter Nepal was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Juan Cabral who passed through the Kathmandu valley in the spring of 1628 and was received graciously by the king of that time, probably King Lakshminarasimha Malla of Kathmandu. He was just passing through, however, on his journey from Shigatse to Hugli in India. On the eve of Christmas in 1661 two Jesuit priests, Albert d’Orville a Belgian from Brussels and Johann Grueber an Austrian from Linz visited Kathmandu from the imperial Chinese Observatory in Peking via Lhasa. Pratap Malla, then the King of Kathmandu received them and was ready to grant them permission to preach the new religion in the kingdom, but without waiting for the permission they left for Agra, the headquarters of the Tibet-Hindustan Mission, in India.
Permanent Presence of Capuchin Fathers
The first attempt to a more permanent presence in Nepal was undertaken on 14th March 1703, when six Capuchin Fathers traveled from Rome. Only two arrived in Kathmandu on 21st February 1707 to open a mission in Tibet, which would include a section of north India and the whole of what is now Nepal. The first part of their work was beset with many difficulties; illness, lack of man power and resources. After reorganising, they arrived and settled in Kathmandu in the middle of a cold winter in 1715. Over the next fifty-four years, the Capuchin Fathers toiled and extended their services to the people of Bhaktapur and Patan, and were in constant touch with the kings of Gorkha and Tanahun. On 24th March 1760, Father Tranquillius blessed a small new Church situated in Wotu Tole in Kathmandu under the title of the Assumption of Our Lady.
Left of Capuchin Fathers and Converted Newari ethnic Christians
During the conquest of the three kingdoms of the valley by King Prithvi Narayan Shah (1744 – 1769), Jayaprakash Malla of Kathmandu sought the help of the East India Company in his fight against him. Suspicion fell on the Capuchins for having been involved in the scheme and it worsened after the invasion. This became untenable and thus on 4th Feburary 1769, they left the valley along with a small group of religious refugees and found their way to Bettiah, India. They consisted of fifty-seven Newari Christian converts. They were perhaps the first small community of Nepali ethnic Christians in Nepal, an outcome of the earlier work in Tibet by the Jesuit and then the Capuchin Fathers, who were forced out to India in order to retain their religious convictions. A few Capuchin Fathers returned around 1794 and among them was Father Joseph of St. Marcello who stayed in the country until his death in 1810. (http://nepalcatholic.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=58)
Then on, Nepal was devoid of any resident Christian mission or national presence until the mid-20th century, otherwise an era known as a “Closed” period for approximately 150 years. (http://www.ecs.com.np/feature_detail.php?f_id=384)
Migration of Nepalese in India and Diaspora
According to her thesis “The history of the Expansion of Protestant Christianity among the Nepali Diaspora” by Dr. Cindy Perry, the history of the protestant Christian Church among the Nepalese started while Nepal was still a “Closed” country, among a migrated diaspora community across the eastern border in Darjeeling, then a part of British India. As territorial expansion continued at the helm of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the cost side in human terms rose significantly. Economic pressure, oppressive land and labor policies and the ensuing rampant rural indebtedness; which threatened the survival of villagers, were some of the causes of migration. The cost of Nepal-Tibet war (1787-1793) and the Anglo-Nepal war (1814-1816) added to the wound of the people. The increased costs were reflected in an increased tax burden on the peasantry. This was not only the cause of migration but also because of the expansion of British power in India, their unquenchable thirst for labor and the opening up of new sparsely populated lands.
Migration of Nepalese, which had been led by military conquest, was then led onward by the recruitment of them into a foreign army, a form of labor-export. They were not only recruited as soldiers but to feed the development needs of British India: for the new tea plantation industry in Darjeeling and Assam, mining projects, construction of roads and railways and for factories in burgeoning urban centers. In the face of growing economic and land pressures within Nepal, the promise of land was one of the strongest pulls, together with various wage earning opportunities. Thousands of Nepali were drawn eastward, first into Darjeeling and Sikkim, on to the southern reaches of Bhutan, into Assam and throughout North-East India and even on to Burma. By 1900 there were over a quarter million Nepali emigrants in India.
In the midst of this growing external migrant population of Nepali ethnics, came the beginnings of a vibrant Nepali Christian Church. While Nepal observed “closed door” policy to the outside world, including Christianity, in British India there was relative religious freedom and Christian missions were welcomed. The Church of Scotland’s move to Darjeeling, and henceforth Sikkim and the Dooars, each of which had an expanding Nepali population, heralded the beginnings of the modern-day Nepali Church – a Church which started in and expanded throughout the diaspora, and extended from there back into the homeland.
Opening up of Mission
Nepal was not an inviting place during the first half of the 20th century because of its walls of snow on the north and its malaria infested border on the south. The few travelers from outside were profoundly affected by the people they met and the conditions in which they lived. There were neither schools nor medical care.
Ordinary people, close to 95% of the 13 million in 1954, survived at subsistence level and life expectancy was less than forty years. In the late 1940s, an enthusiastic science teacher and noted ornithologist at Woodstock School in India, Dr. Robert Fleming, requested permission from the Government of Nepal to enter the country to study the birds of the Himalayas. Permission was granted and on October 31, 1949, Bob Fleming and Dr. Carl Taylor visited Butwal, Tansen, Baglung, Tukuche and Pokhara and in1951, after King Tribhuvan regained power, Bob returned. For six weeks medical clinics were held in Tansen as urged by influential Nepalese who assisted the bird expedition. Permission was given to Bob Fleming to open a hospital in Tansen and women’s welfare clinics at various sites in the valley. Knowing that the response could not be theirs alone, an invitation was quickly extended to Christian missions working along the border of Nepal, and in doing so invited them to join and work together in a united way in Nepal. And thus in 1954, the United Mission to Nepal was founded. (http://www.ecs.com.np/feature_detail.php?f_id=384)
Another such organisation which were established are International Nepal Fellowship, Operation Mobilisation and Ananda Ban, and Team Missions. (Excerpt from Religions in Nepal by Trilok Chandra Majupuria & Rohit Kumar, 2008)
Establishment of School under Catholic Mission
Around the same period in 1949, Father Marshall Moran, S.J., then principal of St Xavier’s school in Patna and a member of the Senate of Patna University, visited Nepal to supervise the annual examinations at the Trichandra College and met with Mohan Samsher Junga Bahadur Rana, who raised the possibility of opening a school in Nepal similar to the one in Patna. Though the government was overthrown, formal invitation and approval came from the new government under King Tribhuvan. A school at Godavri was established in 1950 with sixty-five students and in 1954 St. Xavier’s at Jawalakhel was officially open. (http://www.ecs.com.np/feature_detail.php?f_id=384)
Preparation by Prayer and Translation of the Bible
In the meantime, Nepali Christians in northeast India, prepared and prayed for the “doors of Nepal to be opened” so that the Gorkhali people (another name for Nepalese) could hear the Gospel of Christ. These Christians were poised for martyrdom for Christ, and ready at any time to immigrate to Nepal to help develop the country and to build the Church. Many had forefathers who tried to immigrate to Nepal earlier but had been barred from doing so because they were Christians and among them Padre Ganga Prasad Pradhan is mentionable, who was engaged by the British and Foreign Bible Society as their official Nepali Bible translator in 1894. His wish to immigrate in 1914 into Kathmandu with 40 members of his family was denied. But as the gates of Nepal opened to the outside world in early 1950s, the return of indigenous Christians to Nepal from India led to the establishment of the Church in Nepal.
Numerous diverse strands came together to initiate a unique movement of God’s work in Nepal. Education with social service, bird expeditions linked with medical care, a vision and call to those working along the border of Nepal in India, and the return of indigenous Christians to Nepal to share the Gospel of Christ are some mentionable history. They were united by the desire to live among and assist the people of Nepal. (http://www.ecs.com.np/feature_detail.php?f_id=384)
The Impact of the Political Change
With the combined initiative of the late King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah and the people of Nepal the 104 years of Rana reign ended in 1950. Nepal was then established as a democratic kingdom. With the advent of democracy some doors for Christianity was opened. A few Nepalese and some British Missionaries started a Church and a hospital in Pokhara. In the meantime Christian missionaries from South India and Darjeeling entered and established Churches in Kathmandu. (http://nepalchurch.com/2692/2692/)
International Christian mission organisations started coming to Nepal. They were not allowed by the government to engage themselves in religious activities but were asked to help in the development process of the country. Though the witness and contribution of individual missionaries and the prayer of Christians worldwide definitely contributed to the promotion of Christianity in Nepal, outside missions were not able to play a direct role in the growth of the Church and Christianity in Nepal. As there were no opportunities for higher education in Nepal, many young people went abroad for higher education. While abroad, some of them came into contact with Christianity and embraced Christianity. They came back to Nepal, shared their faith with their family members and others and established Churches. Another way in which Nepalese came into contact with Christianity was through military service in British and Indian army. (http://nccnepal.org/about_us/)
Nepalese Church under Persecution
Although religious freedom has been proclaimed in 1959, conversion to Christianity and preaching the Gospel were strictly prohibited. At one time Nepalese wanting to become Christians would cross the border to India, get baptised there, and then return as Christians (which was allowed). Later they said, “Our Lord had to suffer as a criminal, why should not we be prepared to suffer for our faith also?” Many were baptised in Nepal but they faced being beaten up and turned out by their families, or they even go jail sentences from one to six years. (Excerpt from Religions in Nepal by Trilok Chandra Majupuria & Rohit Kumar, 2008)
In 1960, the late King Mahendra took advantage of the weak democracy of Nepal and declared Nepal to be a Hindu Kingdom. The period after 1960 and during the Panchayat rule many Christians and a few Muslims were jailed in the name of conversion. During this period many Indian and foreign Christians were accused of preaching and sent back to their countries. During this period, those involved in preaching and those who converted to Christianity were given 3 and 6 years of jail sentences respectively. (http://nepalchurch.com/2692/2692/)
With the advent of democracy in 1990, the jailed Christians were set free. Subsequently Christianity flourished in Nepal. The period was also marked by 10 years’ of Maoist armed conflict. During this period, some rural Christians were persecuted by both the Maoist and the government. Due to lack of research on the issue no one has the exact data to confirm the exact figure. (http://nepalchurch.com/2692/2692/)
Population of Christians in Nepal
By the grace of the Triune Living God, slowly and gradually Nepalese are turning to their Creator, Saviour and Sustainer. This can be proved by just comparing the Nepal Government’s Census. The 1971 census recorded Nepali Christians to be around 2,541, which was 0.02% of the total population at that time. The Census of 1981 reported that there were about 3,891 Christians, which was 0.03% of the total population at that period. The total population of Nepali Christians in the Census of 1991 was shown to be 31,289. This was 0.17% of the total population. The same population according to the Census of a 2001 shown was 101,976. That is 0.45% of the total populations.
The latest Census (22 June 2011) records Nepali Christians to be about 375,699 out of the total population of 26,494,504. This comes to be 1.4%. Despite of all the difficulties this community is facing, God-believing people are increasing in Nepal
NBS has completed two translations in Nepali, viz New Revised Version (NRV) and Simple Nepali Holy Bible (SNHB). The former is for more learned people and the latter, which translation model is the then Todays English Version, for people, who prefer simple language/terms. NBS has got these Bibles in CD, Flash Drive, which are called Electronic Bible (BPBible). These both translations are also available at free from NBS website. These are operational mainly in Nokia phones, but we are also working hard to make them available through the UBS DBL for Smart Phones. NBS has also completed the OT in the Tibetan Common Language and recently published the Ghale NT. NRV whole Audio Bible is making a good progress. Please refer to Products/Services section too.
Hello, I am Tej Jirel, current General Secretary/CEO of Nepal Bible Society (NBS). Thank you for visiting this site of NBS. This site offers you a basic information including NBS’ projects, products & services and a few relevant information. Please visit also www.nepalbiblesociety.org and www.ncrd..org.np I welcome your comments on NBS’ overall ministry, its products and services, etc. for the improvement of this site as well as our services to all God’s people.