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Development in Nepal: A Christian's View

Asia | Religion & Economy

A fatalistic worldview and culture, rooted in religious beliefs, is the bane of Nepal, according to the assessment of a Nepalese civil and human rights activist.

“People in Nepal believe in fate. Modern development and fatalism cannot go together," says Dr. K B Rokaya, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Nepal. "The general belief of the people is that if it is written on your forehead, it will happen. You cannot change your fate even if you break your head,” says Rokaya.

Dr. Rokaya presented Nepal as a case study on the relationship of religion and social and economic development at a TMP-sponsored regional conference in September, 2013.  He argues that the problem of development in Nepal is not one of resources. Nepal has internal and external resources.

“I feel bad to say that this is my capital. It is so small. It can be made beautiful. With every political change, the life of the people becomes worse. Political change is not bringing change. People are going to the Gulf countries (Middle East) to work in the desert. Where is the aid going?”  asks Dr. Rokaya.

Dr. Rokaya has himself defied fate. 

“I come from a remote part of Nepal.  My father was a head priest of the village. I had a long and hard struggle for education, and I had to support myself and eke out a living working in a restaurant.  In 1972 I was sent by the Government of Nepal to study for my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Jadhavpur University in Kolkata, India, where I spent six years,” he recounts.

In October 1973, he embraced Christianity.  And upon his return to India he got a government job in the faculty of engineering at Tribhuvan University, where he later became the principal and worked there for 24 years.  He went on to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering and later a PhD in energy engineering.

Dr. Rokaya points the finger at three missing values that drive the lack of development in Nepal.

“Three things do not have much value in Nepal: life, time and labor. Development is for life, for human development, to make life more beautiful.  A society that does not value human life does not progress. I don’t see that in our society. A person suffers because of his previous life, and people allow him to suffer, since it is just one of the several lives.

“We also do not value time. Time is connected to life. Labor or work is also not valued. Work is like a compulsion. If one can live without working, then people choose not to work,” he laments.

Over the past decade, while Government and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) were in conflict, Dr Rokaya has been deeply engaged in the human rights movement of Nepal. He felt that church leaders must play a role in the country.

“No religious leader was speaking against the violence and killing," Rokaya said. "We decided to get involved and work for peace.”

Rokaya initiated and played an active role in the formation of the Inter-Religious Council of Nepal in 2004 with representation from Hindus, Muslim’s Baha’i’s, Bon Buddhist and Christians.

Prior to this council, religion had been totally isolated in Nepal.

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