ROLPA, Aug 24: Bimala Pun, 20, is not celebrating Teej this year. Actually, it’s been five years since the Garigaun local has squelched her passion for singing and dancing with abandon during the Teej season. The reason why she has skipped all Hindu festivals, which she in fact greatly enjoys, is her conversion to Christianity.
“I became a Christian five years ago. And since then there has been no place for Teej or Tihar in my life,” she said. “They tell me it is not good for a Christian to continue practicing Hindu culture.”
The total population of Gairigaun (in Ward 7) of Triveni Rural Municipality, Rolpa is 5,900, as per records at the rural municipality office. And there are around 18 churches in this ward alone. Recent converts gather at the churches every Saturday.
It was five years ago that Pun developed a kind of mental illness. According to her, she went to the hospital, but even after three months of regular visits there her condition did not improve. She then turned to a church, and she came away feeling better.
“In church, we are told to say our prayers. And after praying our illnesses to vanish. It is Prabhu (lord) who cures us,” Pun stated. “Many women and some men also have been cured by Prabhu and they have all become Christians,” she added.
Pun is a member of Salim Prashansa Mandali and is also an activist who likes to spread the Word “so that many more like her receive the blessings of Prabhu”.
“Going to church helps us with our problems, including health-related ones. But once we convert, we can’t continue to follow Hindu culture and Hindu festivals,” she noted.
A huge number of children also attend church. They come with their mothers.
According to 21-year-old Kamala Gharti of the same village, it is not hard to convert to Christianity in her locality. “My hometown is Holeri. But this is where I got married and I found that everyone here follows Christianity,” she said. “It is difficult for me to adjust back to Hindu ways and I cannot go to my parents to celebrate Teej,” she lamented.
Gharti is not sure whether it is visiting a church that heals the sick. But she too has gone there whenever she felt any needing for health-related treatment. “Everyone does the same.”
During the Saturday gatherings, the local churches raise funds from members. According to Pun, the money is used for the upkeep of the church. “Whatever we raise here is of great help in funding our activities,” she said. “Many sick come here; many children who have not found cure in hospitals also come to church. We need the money for promoting Christianity,” she asserted.
Pun further said that the church arranges for the training of its members. After training, one can promote the religion more effectively. “We have to go to other districts for our training; sometimes they come to us. After the training, we become more capable of running our activities and founding churches,” Pun informed.
According to Chairperson of the Ward Bhan Bahadur Gharti, the local Christians had demanded a budget for building a church. But the ward refused. “They had sought funds for a church, but we didn’t give any,” he said. “We know that the sick are going to church for medical care but we’ve not made a big fuss about it. It’s not a good thing for the sick to be going to church to pray instead of going to hospital, but we have not spoken much about it as it is a matter of people’s faith,” he said.
Nara Bahadur Dangi of Rangsi Health Post also said that many patients referred to the hospital go to church instead. “We refer them to the hospital but they go to church. One or two people might chance to get better, but this practice has left people only prolonging their misery,” he remarked.
There is a large number of churches near Kareti, Budhigaun and Rangsi Health Posts as elsewhere in Rolpa. Many of the churches cost millions to build, but the locals do not discuss the sources of the money.