Murder of Nepalese Workers in Iraq Spurs Concern in Christians, Natives

Christians fear for their safety after thousands in Nepal took to the streets in public demonstrations
( [email protected] ) Sep 02, 2004 09:23 PM EDT

After the murder of 12 workers kidnapped on Aug. 20 in Iraq by a Muslim extremist group, thousands of people took to the streets of the Nepalese capital on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Christians feared for their safety, as they perceived themselves to be possible targets of violence.

"Christians too are becoming the target of public demonstrations. Authorities have ordered us to not leave the parish, because of risks," Nepalese priest Justin Lapcha told Italy-based AsiaNews.

Yesterday, the Internet site of a group of Islamic terrorists posted the news of the death of the 12 Nepalese workers, claiming to have killed them because they "came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians...believing in Buddha as their God."

“People are blaming the U.S. for the death of the 12 hostages,” Lapcha added. “Americans are considered Christian by the Nepalese: we too are therefore at risk.”

Some, however, such as Father Pius Perumana, say Christians are not in any particular danger.

The "tragedy has affected all the citizens of Nepal regardless of their religious beliefs," he assured. Like "everyone else, Christians are staying at home, but not out of fear for themselves as Christians, but because of the general air of tension," he explained.

“The curfew continues....Today is a national day of mourning and the whole country is still deeply shaken," Father Perumana told Zenit News.

"No one was expecting such a violent reaction. It was clear that people were deeply grieved and angry but unfortunately these feelings exploded in collective disorder,” he said.

“Immediate intervention by the police and the authorities calmed the riots and helped to avoid further violence. Religious leaders in Nepal have publicly condemned the crime," Father Perumana added.

“Tension is high,” Perumana acknowledged, “but the situation is under control.”

Currently, out of a population of 23 million (75% Hindu, 8% Buddist, 4% Muslim), there are some 500,000 Christians in Nepal, of which 7,000 are Catholic.