As I travel to impoverished places in this world I am frequently reminded that man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds. This is especially true in Nepal, a country where a legacy caste system relegates some people to less-than-human status. Upper caste people do not seem outraged when their “lessers” are exploited or victimized. Hinduism can be very desensitizing since such unfortunate circumstances can be regarded as just rewards for the sins of a previous life.
On my Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Bagdogra I flipped through the inflight magazine. The cover story was Unkindest Cut. It told the story of poor villagers in the mountains of Nepal whose kidneys were being taken to meet the demand for transplants in India. According to the World Health Organization an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving trafficked organs now take place annually. It is a matter of supply and demand.
In one village, Hokse, the majority of the adults (380) have been donors. In some cases the villagers were cheated — promised a job that required a medical exam only to wake up and find a kidney had been taken. In other cases they were offered money ($112 USD) with the promise that the kidney would grow back. It is a lucrative deal for the kidney merchants. Transplants in India cost around $28,000 USD. But for the donor, the victim, it is nothing short of exploitation as their bodies are mutilated and their parts are trafficked.
Both Nepal and India have enacted laws outlawing the practice, but the practice continues unabated because the victims are desperate, illiterate and poor. They are unlikely to bring charges even if they know how. The money, as small as it is, provides some momentary relief to their very difficult lives. When life seems hopeless and people begin to believe that their circumstances are the just desserts of something they have done in unknown past, small monetary relief offers a glimmer of hope — as fleeting as it is. Laws that are written to protect them are apparently having little effect.
In only a few days I knew I was going to hike into those very hills to visit a small church. I wondered if any of the villagers there had kidneys taken. I thought about the difference I had seen in the lives of Christians in this country. Their circumstances are the same, but they live with a contentment that defies human understanding. They know they are significant in the eyes of God. They know that their sins, which they are aware of in this life, are forgiven. They know God provides. They have hope in Jesus. They are not easily victimized.
While Christian represents only 2% of Nepal’s population, its rapid growth is perceived as a threat that undermines the values of the culture. Christianity spreads unconditional love and forgiveness for sins. It encourages education and opportunity. When those of the lower castes convert, the upper Brahman caste lose complete control over them.
While Nepal became a secular nation in 2005, it has not really culturally transitioned from being a Hindu nation and there is social and political pressure to maintain the status quo. There are laws being considered now that will make it a crime to convert to Christianity (punishable by 5 years in prison). Pray that they will not enact laws that will hinder the very hope they need. Jesus frees the spirit. He restores dignity. He gives hope. The people of Nepal need Jesus.