Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 06 August 2012
Pastor beaten and threatened with death by official in Bhutan
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Bhutan
A house church pastor in Bhutan was beaten by a government official, who told him not to conduct worship services in his home and threatened to kill him.
Pema Sherpa, from the southern town of Gelephu, was hit on the forehead and chest by the sub-divisional officer during the attack, which took place on 31 July.
The official had summoned Pema along with three other pastors to tell them not to conduct worship services in their homes.
After the other three church leaders had left, the officer attacked Pema; he drew a "patang", a traditional Bhutanese sword, and threatened to kill the pastor. The official threatened to send Pema to jail and called the police; the church leader said that he was willing to be imprisoned but was not detained.
Christians suffer state-sponsored persecution in various forms in the strongly Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan.
The estimated 15,000 believers (around two per cent of the population) are not legally recognised.
The practice of Christianity is technically illegal, and Bhutanese who become Christians can pay a high price. They may lose their citizenship and associated benefits such as free education and healthcare, their job, and even access to water and electricity. Some face harassment and beatings. They are pressured to conform to traditional Buddhist values and norms.
Church buildings are all but forbidden, so most Christians gather for worship and fellowship in homes.
Despite the pressure, groups of believers are forming and the Church is spreading throughout the country.
Bhutan, which is ruled by an autocratic Buddhist monarchy, is around 75% Buddhist and just over 20% Hindu.
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