Christianity in Bhutan

The French Internet site "Aide à l'Eglise en détresse" (Aid to the Church in Need) puts the figure of Christians in Bhutan at 12,255, with 1,000 Roman Catholics, making it a total of 0.9% of the population. The population also consists of 84% Buddhists, 11.4% Hindus, 3.4% Animists and 0.3% uncategorized.[1]


In 1627 two Pourtugese Jesuits, Estêvão Cacella and João Cabral, traveling from Kochi and attempting to make a new route to the Jesuit mission in Shigatse, Tibet,[2] visited Bhutan. While in Bhutan, Father Cacella and Father Cabral met Ngawang Namgyal, the founder and religious leader of the Bhutanese state, and spent months in his court. The "Zhabdrung strongly encouraged the Jesuits to stay and even allowed them to use a room in Cheri [Monastery] as a chapel, granted them land in Paro to build a church and sent some of his own attendants to join the congregation. With no success in conversion and despite much discouragement from the Zhabdrung against their departure, the Jesuits eventually left for Tibet."[3] At the end of a stay of nearly eight months in the country, Father Cacella wrote a long letter from Cheri Monastery, to his superior in Cochin in the Malabar Coast; it was a report, The Relacao, relating the progress of their travels. Their visit is also corroborated in contemporaneous Bhutanese sources, including the biography of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.[4]

The 2008 ConstitutionEdit

Article 7 of the 2008 constitution guarantees religious freedom, but also forbids conversion 'by means of coercion or inducement'.[5] According to Open Doors, this hinders the ability of Christians to convert.[6]

Christian communitiesEdit

There is a relatively large Christian population in Southern Bhutan. [7]

Roman CatholicsEdit

Territorially, Roman Catholics in Bhutan belong to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Darjeeling.[8]


The majority of the country's Christians are Pentecostals. The Church of God in Christ, which claims to be the denomination supplying most gospel tracts in Bhutan, has a Pentecostal character and has about two congregations in Bhutan. The Indian New Life League is another Protestant denomination and has one congregation in Bhutan. The Diocese of Eastern Himalaya is a diocese of the Church of North India, with its seat at Darjeeling. There are other Protestant groups, like El-Shaddai, and there are also Christians who are not members of the denominational churches, who simply gather as Christians in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are called "brethren" and number about 400 in Bhutan.

Vajrayana Buddhism as state religionEdit

Vajrayana Buddhism is the State religion of Bhutan.[9] Bhutan is the last remaining country in which Buddhism in its tantric, vajrayana form, also called lamaism, is the state religion.[10]

Restrictions on the Christian faithEdit

Before 2008Edit

  • In 2002 : According to a 2002 report cited by the Bhutanese Christians Services Centre NGO, "the 65,000 Christians [in the country] have only one church at their disposal."[11]
  • In 2006 : According to Mission Network News, "it's illegal for a Buddhist to become a Christian and church buildings are forbidden. (...) Christians in Bhutan are only allowed to practice their faith at home. Those who openly choose to follow Christ can be expelled from Bhutan and stripped of their citizenship."[12]
  • In 2007 : According to Gospel for Asia, "the government has recently begun clamping down on Christians by barring some congregations from meeting for worship. This has caused at least two Gospel for Asia-affiliated churches to temporarily close their doors. (...) Under Bhutan law, it is illegal to attempt to convert people from the country’s two predominant religions [Buddhism and Hinduism]."[13]

After 2008Edit

According to the "Open Doors" ONG, "Persecution in Buddhist Bhutan mainly comes from the family, the community, and the monks who yield a strong influence in the society. Cases of atrocities (i.e. beatings) have been decreasing in number; this may continue as a result of major changes in the country, including the implementation of a new constitution guaranteeing greater religious liberty." [14]


According to the U. S. State Department's 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom no forced religious conversion has been known. [15]

Christian mediaEdit

The Bhutanese Christians Services Centre is an NGO informing on persecution of Christians in Bhutan. [16] The Gospel for Asia radio broadcasts in five languages reaching Bhutan. [17]


  1. ^ Bhoutan, Aide à l'Église en détresse, "Appartenance religieuse".
  2. ^ David M. Malone (March 2008). "Our Man in Bhutan". Literary Review of Canada. Archived from the original on 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
  3. ^ Karma Phuntsho (2013). The History of Bhutan. Random House India. pp. 224–227. ISBN 9788184003116.
  4. ^ gTsang mKhan-chen ’Jam-dbyangs dPal-ldan rGyamtsho (c.1675). Dpal ’brug pa rin po che ngag dbang rnam rgyal gyi rnam par thar pa rgyas pa chos kyi sprin chen po’i dbyangs, in 5 parts (Ka - Ca) and a supplement (Cha).Reprint by Topden Tshering entitled The Detailed Biography of the First Zabs-drung Rinpoche of Bhutan Ngag-dbang-rnam-rgyal (Ngag-dbang-bdud-’joms-rdo-rje) (Dolanji, 1974, from the Punakha woodblocks of ca. 1797-1802)
  5. ^ The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan (PDF). Royal Government of Bhutan. 2008. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-09-05.
  6. ^ Bhutan Archived 2010-07-26 at the Wayback Machine, Open Doors.
  7. ^ "Persecuted Countries: Bhutan". Archived from the original on 2007-10-14.
  8. ^ [1], Bhoutan, sur le site Aide à l'Église en détresse: "[le] diocèse indien de Darjeeling [...] inclut dans son territoire la petite nation du Bhoutan" (i.e. "the Indian diocese of Darjeeling [...] includes the small nation of Bhutan in its sphere."
  9. ^ Bhutan, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, State Department.
  10. ^ Malgré la liberté de religion inscrite dans la Constitution, les chrétiens ne peuvent toujours ni pratiquer en public, ni construire de lieux de culte Archived 2012-02-27 at the Wayback Machine (Bulletin EDA n° 524), sur le site EDA (Églises d'Asie), Agence d'information des missions étrangères de Paris.
  11. ^ Reports on Situation of Christians in Bhutan Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, Bhutan4Christ.
  12. ^ Leadership change in Bhutan sparks hope for ministry Archived 2008-04-16 at the Wayback Machine, Mission Network News, 26 December 2006.
  13. ^ Bhutanese Christians Barred from Attending Worship Services Archived 2010-07-21 at the Wayback Machine, Gospel For Asia,July 5, 2007.
  14. ^ 'New Research Shows Christians Worldwide Facing Increasing Hostility in Practising Their Faith', Says Open Doors Archived 2009-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, Press Release, 13 February 2009.
  15. ^ "U. S. State Department's 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom".
  16. ^ "Bhutan Society and Culture".
  17. ^ "Mission Network News". Archived from the original on 2008-04-16.

See alsoEdit