• Bhutan
    World Watch List Rank: 30

World Watch List Rank: 30
// World Watch List


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  • Leader: King Jigme Wangchuck
  • Population: 793,000 (20,000 Christians)
  • Main Religion: Mahayana Buddhism
  • Government: Constitutional monarchy
  • World Watch List Rank: 30
  • Source of Persecution: Religious nationalism/ Ethnic antagonism

Pressure on Christians has increased significantly in Bhutan, with discrimination growing at both government and society levels.
Though a secular state, constitutionally Buddhism is Bhutan's 'spiritual heritage'. Christians lack any formal status and recognition - many have not even received National Identity Cards. All conversions are strictly opposed by family, community, religious authorities and the state. Believers have been arrested for distributing gospel tracts or inviting people to church. Registering churches is very difficult - the government keeps gatherings confined to household premises to limit the growth of Christianity.
Persecution in Bhutan

"In a very organised way, they're pressing us from all around."
Pastor Meshach, like many Christian leaders, has been under pressure from both his neighbours and the authorities. Sometimes, he explains, when non-believing landlords learn about what pastors are doing in their homes, they up their rental prices. "This city has recently experienced a surge in persecution," he says. "Not physical persecution, but we are being pressed from all sides."
Pastor Jeremiah is facing similar struggles. His congregation was recently displaced by the authorities after neighbours from three different communities made complaints due to 'local beliefs'. The believers were told that they would need to demolish their church immediately. "We submitted to the authorities and we demolished the place ourselves. We had to move out."
While Christianity is growing in Bhutan, and constitutionally other religions are allowed, churches still remains unregistered. Congregations meet inside their homes, and they have to do so in a hushed manner because when neighbours complain, their gatherings are in danger of being disbanded by the authorities.
Christians are not allowed to display Christian symbols publically, and no Christian civil society organisations are permitted. Courts sentence Christians severely, even when the accusations against them are based on little evidence.
This is because Buddhism is, was, and looks in the future to be part and parcel of government agenda. Even after introducing a constitutional monarchy and installing democratic elections, Buddhism continues to play a dominant role in the country.
Especially in remote and rural areas, Buddhist monks resent and oppose the presence of Christians - and authorities do nothing to protect them. On the contrary, they rather side with the monks. In an interview given in 2011, former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley stated that 'democratic culture is gradually taking firm roots' in the country, but absolutely denied the right of the small Christian minority to testify about their faith. Expressing a commonly held belief in Bhutan, he said that there is no reason why Christians should seek to induce others to join their faith.

Please Pray

  • For believers who leave Buddhism, therefore violating the anti-conversion law - that they would be protected
  • That God would soften the hearts of the government to allow Christians to print Bibles and other Christian literature
  • For God's strength for Christian converts facing pressure from family, friends and neighbours to recant their faith.

How we help

Open Doors provides immediate aid to Bhutanese believers when their faith in Christ lands them in prison, excludes them from families and communities, and deprives them of livelihood and employment. Through local partners and churches, Open Doors strengthens persecuted believers in Bhutan through:

  • Advocacy and awareness
  • Training to strengthen Christians facing persecution
  • Literature distribution
  • Discipleship training
  • Literacy programmes.

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