What does persecution look like in Bhutan?
No churches have official recognition by the Bhutanese government, which means that technically, all Christian worship communities are illegal. Despite statements from the Bhutanese government declaring that religious organizations do not need to register, it remains difficult to worship with other believers in Bhutan. All citizens of Bhutan are expected to follow Buddhism, the state religion. Anyone who converts to Christianity will be watched with suspicion—and their surrounding community, local Buddhist leaders and family will likely try to bring them back to their former religion.
Evangelical and Pentecostal communities are at risk of surveillance and raids by authorities. Local leaders may refuse to issue Christians the needed paperwork to do basic things like apply for loans, register property, apply for jobs and renew ID cards. Additionally, the Christian community is denied citizenship, which negatively impacts believers' ability to conduct business, own real estate or receive higher education. Christians are also forced to follow Buddhist rituals as part of paramilitary training.
Converts are the most at risk, particularly those from Buddhism.
Meet 'James Sherpa'
"In the seminar by Open Doors partners, I learned that we need to be faithful, trustworthy and true like Timothy [in the Bible]. I learned that we should glorify God with our lives and that we need to accept persecution because it is inevitable in our life. Thank you for equipping us."James Sherpa, a young Christian from Bhutan
The overall situation for Christians has not changed much in Bhutan. Pressure increased slightly in some areas and decreased in others. But the situation for Christians—particularly for converts to Christianity—remains difficult and intense. Converts face a lack of official recognition and pushback from their families, peers and society at large, and their children can face discrimination at school. Additionally, since Christians can't legally form organized churches, worshipping together always carries some level of risk, since gathering for church exists only in a legal gray area. Informal Christian groups can mostly meet freely, as long as they don't attract too much attention, evangelize publicly or challenge the status quo.
Open Doors works through local partners to strengthen persecuted Christians in Bhutan through prayer support and other practical aid.
How can you pray for Bhutan?
- Pray for Christians who found Jesus out of Buddhism. Ask God to protect them from pressure, discrimination and persecution.
- Ask God for Christian communities to be able to meet without interference. Thank God for the ability of Bhutanese believers to gather, and ask Him to help His people find fellowship in spite of the difficulties.
- Pray for Christians who have lost family, property or belongings because they follow Jesus. Ask God to comfort them and provide His peace that surpasses understanding.
Heavenly Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Bhutan. We ask You to bless them, to give them courage and strength, and to be able to worship freely. We ask that You soften the hearts of the authorities and society in Bhutan, that people who come to know You would be free to walk with You. We pray for churches and church leaders who are at risk because they cannot register; we ask that You would give them peace and hope, and that You would be glorified in their worship. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.