Nepal's decade-long civil war came to an official end as the government and Maoist rebels signed a Comprehensive Peace Accord on November 21. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist Chairman Prachanda, who goes by one name only, signed the accord in Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu. They declared Nov. 22 a public holiday to celebrate.
The Peace Accord brings an official end to the Hindu monarchy that has ruled this country in the Himalayan Mountains for much of its existence. The country's temporary constitution contains provisions to recognize all religions. However, many are expressing doubt that the promised secular government will bring any real change to Nepal, which is still 85 percent Hindu.
Gospel for Asia missionaries working in Nepal say that many people fear the Peace Accord is just a political gimmick to wrestle power away from the king.
"A new Nepal is the dream of all. As Christians and citizens of this nation, we want to truly spread the love and character of Christ to bless this nation," said GFA's leader in Nepal. "Let no one in this nation be left who has not heard and experienced the love and touch of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Unfortunately, blatant violations of the Peace Accord are already being reported. The online nepalnews.com reports that Maoists are continuing their practice of kidnapping teenagers and forcing them to join their People's Liberation Army. Maoist leaders deny the kidnapping claims, insisting that the students joined voluntarily and are being paid for their service.
The lengthy civil war has taken a toll on GFA churches in Nepal. A pastor in the country reports that many innocent believers and church leaders were abducted and killed. Many pastors were physically assaulted or otherwise abused by both Maoists and the Nepal government's official Army. In spite of the difficulty, these pastors used the opportunity to establish 24 schools for the children whose schools had been shuttered because of the ongoing war. These new schools granted the pastors multiple opportunities to reach into difficult places to share the Gospel.
The Peace Accord brings a formal end to a 10-year insurgency by the Maoist rebels, which has resulted in 13,000 deaths. The Accord contains provisions to disarm the Maoists and give them an active role in the country's government. According to the Associated Press, the rebels have agreed to stop their violence and work toward peace in an effort to create a new Nepal.
Massive pro-democracy protests in April led the Maoist rebels and Nepal's seven-party government to agree to a cease-fire. The agreement was routinely ignored by both sides and the fighting continued. As a result of the protests, Nepal's King Gyanendra was removed from power and parliament was restored, according to BBC reports. This led to the drafting of the Peace Accord.
The civil war has also taken a toll on Nepal's economy. Tourism, the country's number two industry, has all but died. Residents of Nepal are hopeful that the Accord will bring peace and stability to their impoverished nation.
"All we ever wanted is peace in our country. I remember life when there was no fear in traveling around any part of our nation. Over the last decade, one had to think very carefully about going anywhere outside the capital city," a Nepalese woman told the BBC. "I haven't been able to escape the fear instilled in us by the violence."
War-weary Nepalis have received hope through GFA Radio broadcasts. Hundreds of listeners are writing in to request Bibles and Gospel books after hearing the programs. Many others are coming to church as a result.
"During the time of war, the message of the Gospel was something people were looking for. Our radio programs constantly carried messages of hope on the air," said GFA's Nepal leader.
Gospel for Asia has been working in Nepal since 1988. Native missionaries are involved in church planting, ministry to children and film ministry. GFA is also the largest distributor of Gospel literature in the country.
A GFA leader says the new Nepal will need a lot of prayer.
"Please pray that during the building of the new Nepal, God will guide and motivate the political leaders to be honest and true to their commitments. Pray that this new Nepal may become a nation which honors Him, fulfilling His promises," he said.