Christians in Nepal fear increased attacks as the country’s government prepares to enact a nationwide anti-conversion law and blasphemy law. In neighboring India, similar anti-conversion laws have been widely abused to harass religious minorities, including Christians and Muslims. According to the bill, which may be signed into law this week by Nepal’s president, it would be illegal to cause another individual to change their religious faith. Also, as part of Nepal’s constitution, the government is tasked with the protection of Hinduism, which is the country’s majority religion.
08/29/2017 Nepal (Christian Post) – While attacks against the Christian minority has increased in Nepal, the Himalayan country’s parliament passed a bill criminalizing religious conversion and the “hurting of religious sentiment,” aiming to restrict evangelism. The move is likely to further escalate Christian persecution.
Clause 160 in section 9 of the bill, which restricts religious conversion, could be invoked against a wide range of legitimate expressions of religion or belief, including the charitable activities of religious groups, or merely speaking about one’s faith, which could be portrayed as attempts to convert others, said the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Clause 158 of section 9 of the bill, which criminalizes the “hurting of religious sentiment,” is similar to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which make it a criminal offense to insult another’s religion, CSW pointed out.
Those found guilty, including foreign visitors, could face up to five years in prison for seeking to convert another person or for hurting the religious sentiments of others.
Similar “anti-conversion” laws in force in neighboring Burma, officially known as Myanmar, and in six Indian states have been misused to target religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians. The laws are vaguely worded in such a way that even legitimate preaching of Christianity can be proven to be a criminal activity.
However, Nepal’s president is expected to sign the bill into law this week.
Christians have been under attack since before the promulgation of the country’s new constitution in September 2015.
Low-intensity blasts occurred in two churches in east Nepal around the time. Pamphlets promoting Hindu nationalism were found at each of the churches and a nationalist group, Hindu Morcha Nepal, issued a press statement calling for Christian leaders to leave the country and for Christian converts to return to Hinduism.
The constitution establishes Nepal as a secular country but also effectively bans evangelism, as it states that no one is allowed to make an attempt to convert people of other religions to his or her own. It also calls for the protection of Hinduism, the majority religion.