By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent
KATHMANDU, NEPAL (Worthy News) -- A Christian missionary, who was “falsely accused of murder” has been released from a prison in Nepal after serving nine of a 20-year sentence, his mission group said Monday, June 1.
Gospel for Asia (GFA) said Nepalese missionary Manja Tamang was freed Friday, May 29, on Nepal's Republic Day along with 13 others in his prison and 120 from jails around the country.
Manja was reunited with his wife Rati and their two children soon afterwards and welcomed “back to freedom” local leaders and other pastors from both Nepal and India, GFA said.
“His release was the cause of celebration among Christians in Nepal” and GFA the group added in a statement. “We rejoice that our faithful brother has been released from prison," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan speaking from his office in Carrollton Texas, from where the group coordinates projects.
“He was unjustly accused and has spent nearly a decade in jail. But his testimony is a parallel with the testimony of the [Biblical] Apostle Paul. Even in prison, our dear brother was preaching the Gospel and bringing people to Christ. Whatever has happened has been used by the Lord to bring even more people to Him."
He reportedly organized and led Bible studies and worship services, with at least 30 inmates attending many of those services. “And several men in his little "prison congregation" chose to follow Christ. Manja also taught social studies classes in the prison's education system,” GFA explained.
The missionary was detained some nine years ago while on an evangelistic tour after he walked along a river path, saw a dead body and immediately contacted the police, Christians said.
An anti-Christian extremist group, who opposed Manja's activities, allegedly y seized the opportunity to stop his work by arranging “several false witnesses” to
testify against him, "framing" him for murder., GFA said. Although the widow of the deceased man testified the missionary's innocence, “Manja was arrested, charged with the crime that he did not commit and beaten to near death,” the group claimed.
He was was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case was appealed but upheld by the Nepali Supreme Court which said there was enough "evidence" to convict him, observers of the trial said.
“At the time, Nepal was officially a Hindu kingdom, and Christians were routinely and officially persecuted. Under today's secular government, Christians have more legal freedom to worship openly...”GFA added.
Nepal became a republic in May 2008, after it had been ruled by monarchs or a ruling family for most of its modern history in relative isolation. Maoist rebels waged a decade-long campaign against the monarchy, leaving more than 12,000 people dead and 100,000 people displaced according to United Nations figures.
A Maoist-dominated government took office in August. However GFA warned that Hindu militants are again becoming increasingly militant in opposing other religions. While it welcomed Manja's GFA warned that extremists have “attacked individual Christian pastors and have threatened the lives of Christian leaders.”
Yet, "Manja's patience in bearing all these difficulties and injustices is a lesson for all of us to learn," said N.Sharma, a GFA'leader in Nepal, in published remarks. "Whenever I saw Manja in prison, he was always smiling. He reminded me often of the Apostle Paul's own statement from prison 'rejoice in the Lord always.' This is a quality that can only be developed through bearing pain from within, such as our brother Manja has done."
Manja's wife, Rati, tried to raise their two children, completed studies at a GFA-affiliated Bible college “and carried on her husband's ministry,” GFA said. She also works with what is known as the “Women's Fellowship” group and teaches the children at a 'GFA Bridge of Hope Center' for education in her village.
GFA officials urged supporters in statements to “continue to pray” for the missionary's family and other prisoners. Manja began serving as a GFA-supported missionary in Nepal in 1997. “When Manja began his ministry, very few people in this small, mountainous country professed Christ,” GFA said
“The first person Manja shared the Gospel with was a village chief, who chose to receive Christ. Later, 14 villagers chose to receive Christ, and that small band of believers” became crucial in “his ministry”, the group added.