World Watch List: 45
Leader: Prime Minister Lotay Tshering
Main Religion: Buddhism
Government: Constutional Monarchy
Source of Persecution: Religious Nationalism
Open Doors supports the church in Bhutan through:
- Discipleship training
- Literature distribution
- Literacy classes
- Emergency relief
“In my place, there is no killing or beating, but we face persecution through the local government coming in and pressuring and threatening us. Yet, the faith of the Christians is still strong. In our village, my church got dismantled, but the members have been practicing faith in their homes and now the church is growing. By God’s grace, they haven’t stopped us totally. The constitution says we can practice our faith, so we do it in our homes.”
– James (pseudonym), a Christian youth in Bhutan
The Buddhist kingdom
Bhutan has been a Buddhist kingdom for centuries. Buddhism holds a very important position in the country. In the Constitution, Buddhism is the “spiritual heritage of Bhutan” and it must be protected and promoted by all. Even though it is also mentioned in the Constitution that all Bhutanese have the right the practice their faith, in practice there are many obstacles.
Expectations as a Bhutanese
All Bhutanese citizens are expected to follow Buddhism. In schools and at the workplace, it is typical to hold Buddhist prayers and rituals, and everyone is expected to participate. In villages, Christians are also expected to attend and contribute to Buddhist activities and festivals. If they do not, the villagers will make life difficult for the believers.
There are no church buildings in Bhutan, and no churches have official recognition by the state, which means that Christians are technically worshipping illegally. Believers meet in rented houses. Villagers often disrupt church meetings, questioning the legality of their activities. In September 2019, the government said that all religious groups are free to practice without official registration. It remains to be seen if this would change the situation for Christians in Bhutan.
Ostracised and ignored
Converts to Christianity will be watched with suspicion and efforts are usually made to bring them back to their former religion. Religious leaders, the local community and family often cooperate in this. They will eventually be disowned by their families if the efforts do not work, a serious consequence in a communal society like Bhutan.
All Christians are left out of communal practices, for example the tradition of community planting and harvesting, where several farmers share the workload and help each other. Christian farmers would be left out and not receive any help.
- For Christians who are feeling the pressure to conform to the society and participate in Buddhist activities. Pray that the Lord will strengthen their resolve to be set apart and give them wisdom to know how to reject the expectations
- That the Bhutanese government will keep their word and allow Christians and other religious minorities to practice their faith freely, even without official recognition.
- That God will soften the hearts of the Bhutanese people and make them receptive to the gospel.