|World Watch List Rank||World Watch List Score|
|King Jigme Wangchuck||793,000 (20,000 Christians)|
|Mahayana Buddhism||Constitutional monarchy|
|Source of Persecution||Persecution Level|
|Religious nationalism||High Persecution|
Though a secular state, constitutionally Buddhism is Bhutan's 'spiritual heritage'. Christians lack any formal status and recognition - many have not even received National Identity Cards. All conversions are strictly opposed by family, community, religious authorities and the state. Believers have been arrested for distributing gospel tracts or inviting people to church. Registering churches is very difficult - the government keeps gatherings confined to household premises to limit the growth of Christianity.
A neighbour's complaint led to Bhutanese pastor Tandin Wangyal being arrested along with another pastor, David, after holding a conference in a house church in March 2014. They were accused of presenting a film to the public without permission and illegally soliciting funds and found guilty by the Dorokha lower court in September 2014. While David was able to pay a fine in exchange for his prison sentence, Tandin was sentenced to almost three years in prison with no possibility of a payment in exchange for jail time.
The good news is that almost a year after his initial arrest, the case against Pastor Tandin has been dropped and he is free, after paying a fine on 19 January 2015. Tandin described the whole legal battle as an opportunity for a 'journey of intimacy with God' and much appreciated the support he received from believers around the world. "Thanks a million for all for your help and unceasing prayer support for me and for my family."
This incident demonstrates the general mindset in the country which for centuries has been a Buddhist kingdom. Even after introducing a constitutional monarchy and installing democratic elections, Buddhism continues to play a dominant role in the country. Especially in remote and rural areas, Buddhist monks resent and oppose the presence of Christians and authorities do nothing to protect them. On the contrary, they rather side with the monks. In an interview given in 2011, former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley stated that 'democratic culture is gradually taking firm roots' in the country, but absolutely denied the right of the small Christian minority to testify about their faith. Expressing a commonly held belief in Bhutan, he said that there is no reason why Christians should seek to induce others to join their faith.
Open Doors provides immediate aid to Bhutanese believers when their faith in Christ lands them in prison, excludes them from families and communities, and deprives them of livelihood and employment. Through local partners and churches, Open Doors strengthens persecuted believers in Bhutan through: