Christian faith-based non-governmental institutions are filling many gaps in the provision of fundamental services to the people of Nepal.
While it is difficult to estimate the total number of so-called NGOs, quite clearly the help they provide is highly significant.
Whether teaching in schools, running health posts or engaging in other types of community development, the NGOs face some of the toughest climatic and geographical conditions in the world.
The reality on the ground
In many cases, churches themselves are efficiently acting as NGOs due to a paucity of provisions for them to register groups involved in community projects.
A number of Church leaders, throughout recent consultative meetings conducted by the Network of Christian Organizations in Nepal, sought to analyze issues they face.
For example, one church NGO that runs a project to train Sunday school teachers is dealing with serious operational restrictions by the government for stipulating a ‘Baptized Christian’ as one criterion for a job vacancy. It had been a mistake to make such a reference in a public domain given the sensitivity of religious problems in Hindu-majority Nepal.
However, the reality is that they did need to have a knowledgeable Christian to fill the place to train Sunday school teachers as it would not be practical for a non-Christian to do so. Another NGO, that has been translating the Bible so locals can read it, also came under close government scrutiny. Some Christian masters feel that controls imposed on them so far, including various forms of censorship, are effectively being trialed, with more constraints to come in the near future.
In a federal system, local bodies are supposed to take full ownership of their development procedures, including acceptance, rejection, and control of development programs in their locality. But many faith-based NGO’s face problems in getting official national government approval for their projects even though they have good working relationships with local government personnel.
These national officials do not understand that the state is not supposed to obstruct the functional autonomy of civil society groups, something that may also be complicated by vengeful former NGO employees. One Muslim parliamentarian thinks that the government is disturbing relations between religious minorities and unfairly not acknowledging Christian contributions in fields such as education and health. A communist parliamentarian criticized fellow MPs with a negative attitude towards Christians, including in some cases what he described as an anti-Christian “evil spirit”.