The Pratapi church in Ghorahi, Dang. (Devendra Basnet/Republica)
DANG, Sept 1: Hindu by birth, Maniram Chaudhari of Karjahi village became Christian few years ago. Like a faithful Christian he attended the Pratapi church in Ghorahi regularly. However, two and half months ago, he stopped showing up at the church. His absence made church's pastor, Nar Bahadur Shah, worried and subsequent enquiries revealed that Maniram has already changed the 'line', joined another church in the locality- Parmeshwar Mandali church.
“I came to know that he was lured by another group of self claimed true followers' of god. They took him in confidence by offering him gifts and even organizing a party for him,” said Nar Bahadur.
But he reached out to Maniram, talked to him and tried to convince him to return. His efforts worked. In his own words he was able to bring the 'lost man' back to 'god's old house'. Having him back, the pastor is content and claims that he saved a soul from being mislead.
“They threw a grand party and they kept on telling me that Nar Bahadur's church is the wrong one. They told me that true god is with them,” Nar Bahadur quoted Maniram as saying. “That was why he was lured to them, but now he has realized that they were lying to him,” he added.
Prem Bahadur Roka, coordinator at Parameshwor Mandali is not at all happy about Maniram's return to Pratapi church,
Both the groups follow the same religion and the same bible. However, both claim themselves to be 'truer' and the other one 'false'. Clear difference between them is - while Nar Bahadur's group perceives god as the father figure, Prem Bahadur Roka's group perceives god as a mother figure. The mother and the father group, which are too critical of each other, battle to draw maximum number of follower to theirs, and even lure followers from the rival group.
[The building housing the Parameshwor Mandali church in Ghorahi, Dang.]
“You see, the new group of 'god' is trying to influence go the people. It tries every deceptive means including giving false assurances and even distributing money to attract followers to them,” fumed Nar Bahadur. “It's very wrong thing happening in name of god. Due to this many of our people have been distracted,” he added. Nar Bahadur narrated couple of anecdotes to explain how Roka is 'misleading' people.
“In fact, they are siphoning money in the name of Christianity. Just last month I was walking in Ghorahi street when I heard the this group suddenly started speaking about their 'god'. They were saying listen to the mother, listen to the mother. After I shouted at them, they hesitated,” Nar Bahadur narrated. The race between the group to lure each other's follower has made the switching of followers between the churches a common thing.
Refuting Nar Bahadur's accusations, Roka accused him of wrong doing. “We are the real ones. What their church is preaching has too many flaws,” Roka claimed. He added that many things including that the 'god would cure disease is something very silly. The god has never said it in bible,” said Roka.
It was around 1980 when Christianity came to Dang district. An American national called David had planted the seed of the religion in Taksera of Rukum district around 1968. He had stayed in the district for nine years to spread Christianity. And Nar Bahadur is considered the first Nepali national to popularize this religion in Dang. He had even faced jail term, he says, for spreading Christianity openly and claims to have remained active in the 'service of god'. Six years back, his group was the de facto voice of the god in the locality. There was no competition.
But things changed than. A group of Korean Christians showed up in the town. They started criticizing Nar Bahadur's 'faith' and claimed that they represent the pure Christian faith, Nar Bahadur informed. The group claimed that 'god has already take birth in the form of mother and therefore the mother must be followed.' A Korean woman was projected as 'the mother or the incarnation of the god', he added.
“We have around 400 followers at present and more would join us as they will learn about us,” Roka said. Stating that their faith is the original one, he informed that their church's structure, functioning and activities different from the other group.
While defending themselves, each group accuses the opponent church of siphoning huge amount of money by 'fooling people'. “Their church gets heavy donation from outside, which they use for drawing followers to their group,” said Roka, who before perceiving god in the mother figure, was a part of the father group for nine years.
“In comparison our church is not funded by anyone for drawing followers, though some Koreans support us,” he said.