From The Times of India comes news of the bombing of a Catholic church - the Church of the Assumption -- in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday, May 23, 2009. Two were killed, including a 15-year-old schoolgirl, and 14 injured -- mostly teenagers --when a bomb exploded towards the end of morning Mass in the church. The bombing was apparently the work of the Nepal Defence Army, a rebel group dedicated to re-establishing the "divine" Nepalese monarchy that was abolished last year, and intent on rededicating Nepal as a Hindu state.
The NDA has been blamed for a series of bombings and other attacks on the Christian and Muslim minorities in Nepal, apparently culminating in the murder -- widely attributed to the Hindu-inspired terrorist group -- of Fr. Johnson Prakash SDB last July 1, 2008. The Indian Salesian was hailed as Nepal's first priest-martyr. After Fr. Prakash's murder, the NDA committed acts of intimidation against as many as 70 Catholic educational institutions and social programs.
The situation of the tiny Catholic minority in Nepal (7,500 souls as of last year in a nation of 27 million) has always been precarious, although it has been improving in the past two decades. Prior to 1991 religious conversions to Christianity were forbidden and penalized; until 2008 the state was officially Hindu, ruled by a king who was regarded as the reincarnation of the god Vishnu. At present public worship is allowed and in 2007, Nepal gained its first Catholic bishop -- the Vicar Apostolic Anthony Sharma SJ, himself a convert from Hinduism.
Although Parliament abolished the national Nepalese monarchy in May 2008 -- and with it the country's designation as a Hindu state -- and instituted a republic that became Communist-led, the country remains devoutly Hindu and there are signs the majority of the (Hindu) populace had wanted the institution of the monarchy itself to remain, despite the unpopularity of the last king, Gyanendra.
In contrast the Christian minority had been vocal in its support for a purely secular state, with representatives of the Catholic Church vocally declaring their faith in the Maoist government last year. The Maoist government, in turn, promised to respect religious freedom; so far the government has apparently not taken steps to break this promise.