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No more Christmas in Nepal, Christians react

((Photo: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer))Children look at a Nativity scene at the Christmas market in the harbour of Emden, Germany, November 27, 2013.

The Nepalese government has declared that Christmas will no longer be considered a public holiday, a decision that sparked protests among Christians and their supporters in the country.

"We are forced to take such a decision not to hurt Christians but to control the rising number of public holidays," Minister of Home Affairs Shakti Basnet told Asia News. He did say that they "are ready to provide leave for Christians working for the government."

This, however, is not enough since those working in private companies will not be able to celebrate it. According to Christian Today, Christmas was the only Christian holiday recognized in the country, up until it was removed. People see this as the government having been "influenced by anti-Christian tendencies," since it recognizes dozens of other non-Christian religious holidays.

"Christians do not just work for the government," said Rev. CB Gahatraj, secretary general of the National Federation of Christians. "If Christmas is not a national holiday, the workers of the private sector will not be able to celebrate it. The Government recognises 83 festivities for Hindus and other communities, but none for Christians."

The decision came eight years after Christmas was declared a national holiday. Christian leaders have drafted a petition to challenge it, and they are supported by activist groups and inter-faith groups like the.

"We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for our faith and the protection of freedom of worship. We strongly demand the restoration of the festivity and that the recent decision be dropped within a week. If the government fails to meet our request, we will protest across the country," Gahatraj said.

Christian groups in Nepal are also questioning a provision in Article 156 of the New Civil Code that prohibits conversion and other similar activities. Gahatraj explained that this provision specifically targets Christian priests who can be imprisoned for performing conversions.

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