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ICC Note:

Despite having one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world, religious freedom remains a distant dream for Christians in Nepal. Recently, Nepal adopted a new constitution that officially made the country a secular state, neutral to all religions. But, bowing to pressure from hardline Hindu groups, the constitution included language that made religious conversions illegal. This language has concerned many Christian leaders in Nepal because it could be used to persecute the already marginalized Christian community. Despite this challenge, the Gospel continues to spread rapidly in Nepal. 

2/12/2016 Nepal (Crossmap) – Bowing to pressure from hardline Hindu groups, the Nepalese congress banned any acts leading to conversions from one religion to another in the country’s new constitution. It also prohibits acts that undermine or jeopardize the religion of another.

At the same time they declared the nation to be secular and neutral toward all religions.

The change concerns Christian missionaries in the region who reportedly have seen greater openness to the Gospel than ever before, especially following the April 2015 earthquake that killed 8,000 people.

“Christianity is increasing rapidly. Doing outreaches is easier than before,” said Nepalese Pastor Sanjay Tripathi. “We are seeing souls getting saved. Living for Christ too. Majority of people have heard the Good News of Christ. God is moving for our nation.”

Tripathi said the greatest barriers until now have not been presented by the authorities, who voted against declaring Nepal a “Hindu nation,” despite protests by radical Hindus. He said the main barriers have been in the family.

“To come to Christ, I had to leave my family,” Pastor Tripathi said. “They don’t accept me. Nor my old friends.”

Still, international observers have voiced concern that the Nepalese government flouted international treaties to guarantee freedom of religion for all its citizens.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has criticized the ban on evangelism. “The freedom to choose and change one’s faith is a fundamental right which must be upheld as an essential part of any constitution which adheres to international human rights principles,” said Chief Executive Mervyn Thoma.

“Nepal is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his or her choice.”

The new constitution, signed by Nepal’s president in September 2015, is part of a transition from monarchy to democracy started in 2008. The constitution stipulates fines and jail time for “any act to convert another person from one religion to another or any act or behavior to undermine or jeopardize the religion of another.”

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