Friday, 27 June 2003

Tokyo (Fides Service) – For over twenty years the School Sisters of Notre Dame taught poor children in Bandipur village in the mountains of Nepal. In 2001, because of disorder and danger due to spreading violence on the part of Maoist guerrilla groups, the Sisters had to close the school. But today there are ready to resume their important mission in Nepal.
“The situation is not completely peaceful” former school head mistress Sister Tanaka Shoko tells Fides Service – but many local people are anxious for the school to be reopened so we have decided to return. We hope everything will go well”.
The Sisters began to work in this Tibetan area of Asia in the early 1980s. Four Sisters were sent to Bandipur a mountain village situated between Pokkara and Kathmandu. In 1985 the Sisters opened a kindergarten, then a primary school and in 1997 a college for mainly Buddhist and Hindu pupils.
The problems began in 1996 when groups of Maoist guerrillas, which still fight for a peoples’ republic, started a period violence during which 7,000 people were killed in six years, many were civilians, despite attempts of conciliation on the part of the Nepal government.
The Sisters received threatening letters telling them to close the school and leave Nepal, or there would be violent reaction. The sisters reluctantly stopped their work of education, mainly to protect their pupils, while the kindergarten stayed open run by local volunteers with the help of priests.
On 29 January this year the government of Nepal reached a cease-fire agreement with the rebels, and so the Sisters decided to reopen their school. The Congregation are sending Sister Imamura Seiko and Sister Kanatani Miyoko who worked in Nepal since the beginning of the mission.
The Sisters have happy memories of their experience in Nepal and are glad to return. Sister Imamura says” twenty years ago none of us spoke the language, it was like groping in the dark, but we were warmly welcomed by the local people. As we worked we knew we were guided by the Lord. I know that our project was successful because it was supported by spiritual and material help of many friends. Today some of our former pupils, now grown, will help us educate the new little ones”.
Nepal has a population of 23 million, mainly Hindus. There are about 6,000 Catholics. PA (Fides Service 27/6/2003 EM lines 40 Words: 450)