So I was sitting here, trying to think of what to write for our Issue of the Week. The problem, of course, isn’t that it’s hard to find an issue, it’s that how do you pick one issue out of hundreds of places around the world where people are suffering?

Today, thanks to Calvin Smothers, we’re looking at Nepal. Calvin’s been part of our community for awhile, and he was in Nepal last year during mass protests due to illegitimate elections. And he’s going back, hopefully in March or April, to work and serve there for the next three years.

Nepal’s history is complicated, so I’ll try to be brief. In 1990, Nepal become a constitutional monarchy — basically a form of government that keeps the monarchy around, but also allows for democratic elections. Unfortunately, the governments elected were weak, marked by in-fighting and corruption. So, in 1996, the communist party broke away from the government and began to use force to achieve their ends: they called themselves Maoist and terrorized rural areas. For ten years fighting between Maoists and the government wore on, again mainly in rural areas. As a result, over 50% of rural Nepal (and up to 80%, depending on estimates) fell into Maoist control.

In 2006, spurred on doubtlessly by Calvin’s liberating presence, the Nepali populace staged mass protests. The government of Nepal was notoriously corrupt, and had recently staged illegitimate elections. These protests led to an interim government being established, and brought the Maoists to the table to participate in the talks.

This past September, however, the Maoists suddenly quit the government, demanding an immediate end to the monarchy. This is problematic because elections were scheduled for this November (2007), and the newly-elected government would then decide what to do with the monarchy. The Maoists are circumventing the process (but what can you expect from a rebel group of terrorists?).

As of today, the elections are indefinitely postponed, the Maoists have left the negotiating table, and, to cap it all off, an ethnic group in the south of the country – the Madhesis – is protesting for greater representation in the peace process. Human rights abuses by both the government and Maoists mean that Nepal now has the largest number of disappearances in the world. In 2005, the U.N. set up a Human Rights office in Nepal to monitor abuses. It’s the second largest in the world. Additionally, about 85% of Nepal’s population (around 28 million) live on less than $2 a day. Less than a mocha at Starbucks.

So, what can you do? Three things. First, become more informed — and tell other people about it. Go to AlertNet and check out info on Nepal. Second, support Calvin! He’s going to Nepal as soon as he has enough support, and he will be bringing real change into lives there — showing people love and hope where they had none, acting as an agent of change. To support Calvin go here, and be sure to write For Calvin Smothers where appropriate. Third, pray for Nepal: for the people, for peace. Whatever you believe, pray to God or send out positive energy to a place that desperately needs help.

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