By John Martin
Anglican worshipers are among an estimated 10,000 people killed in earthquakes that have twice struck the mountain kingdom of Nepal within two weeks. Many Christians were meeting for worship on April 25, the Saturday when the first quake hit, because Sunday is a working day in Nepal.
More than 25 worshipers perished in one incident. And reports confirm a further 17 deaths, including a vicar. The first quake, 7.8 in magnitude, left nearly 8,000 dead and devastated the region around the capital, Kathmandu, while the second on May 11 measured 7.3 and hit the area around Mt. Everest.
The Rev. Lewis Lew, Dean of Nepal, which is overseen by the Diocese of Singapore, has issued a confirmation of a tragic scene.
“Pastor Laxman Tamang and 17 of his members from Choke Church were called home to be with the Lord on 25 April, Saturday, when the quake struck the village of Choke in Dhading district,” he said.
“Pastor Laxman pastors a 340-member church. He loved the Lord, and had spent more than half his life in the ministry. Under his leadership Choke Church became part of the Anglican Church of Nepal 15 years ago.”
Ram Prasad Shrestha, leader of the Nepal National Mission Commission said a church with 100 members was meeting on the fourth floor of a seven-story building in Sukedhara, central Kathmandu, when the quake hit. The entire building collapsed killing 25 believers and injuring many others.
“We have missionaries in the affected areas,” he said. “Almost 90 percent of the people of Kathmandu Valley are sleeping on the street and open space, but very few have got tents.”
Prasad and his family were caught in the devastation. “We slept for two days in the open field,” he wrote for CMS. Many families like his had to find whatever shelter they could to sleep at night.
The Most Rev. Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney — whose relief agency Anglican Aid immediately launched an appeal for funds — described the scale of the Nepal tragedy as staggering. “Nepal has suffered a heavy death toll, as well as overwhelming property damage. Traumatized survivors are still being terrified by aftershocks,” he said.
Nepal, with a population of nearly 30 million, is predominately Hindu. Freedom of worship was promulgated in 2007 and Christians number just 4.5 percent, with churches reporting growth in numbers.
By one of the quirks of Anglicanism, Nepal is one of six deaneries of the Diocese of Singapore. The others are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. For many years these outposts were little more than single chaplaincies, but in the last two decades Singapore has put its hand to mission work and appointed deans to lead the work.
Image of quake victim by Vishal Arora • CMS