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Nepal Removes Christmas as a National Holiday, Christians Protest

The Nepali government has removed Christmas as a national holiday, a decision that has prompted protests from the country's Christians.

Nepal first recognized Christmas as a national holiday eight years ago when the country became a secular state. Now, however, the country removed it as a national holiday in order to control the growing number of holidays filling the Nepali calendar.

The Nepali government says the decision to remove Christmas from the country's list of national holidays is not meant to slight Christians, but believers are not taking it that way.

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

"We are forced to take such a decision not to hurt Christians, but to control the rising number of public holidays," minister for home affairs, Shakti Basnet, told Asia News.

The government told Christians that those who work for the government will still be given Christmas Day off as a holiday. Nepali Christians say that this doesn't take into account all the Christians who work in the private sector, however.

Gahatraj expressed concern that Nepali officials had been "influenced by anti-Christian tendencies" in removing Christmas from the country's list of national holidays.

The Inter-Religious Council and other faith groups are supporting the Christian community in challenging the government’s decision.

"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.

Only about three percent of Nepal’s population is Christian, but the former Hindu kingdom has a growing church, according to Operation World. The majority of Nepalis, about 75 percent, are Hindu.

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