Christians in Nepal are speaking out against a new law approved by the parliament making all religious conversions as well as all activities of evangelization and proselytizing illegal. Many Christians in Nepal claim that this law is specifically aimed at their community as Nepal is home to one of the fastest growing Christians populations on the planet. Government officials claim that the law is not targeted at Christians and that it applies to all religious groups. Unfortunately, similar laws in India have always disproportionately targeted Christianity and other minority faiths.
09/11/2017 Nepal (Asia News) – Nepal’s parliament approved a new criminal code punishing all religious conversions as well as all activities of evangelization and proselytizing.
The law applies to both Nepali citizens and foreigners (missionaries included) and will come into effect in August 2018.
Since most Nepalis are Hindus (more than 80 per cent of the population), minorities feel the legislation is designed to discourage their faith, especially Christianity.
Asia News spoke to some Christian leaders, Catholic included, all of whom are appalled by the parliament’s decision. Now they fear for their members and for religious freedom, which in theory is guaranteed by the country’s secular and democratic constitution adopted in 2015.
“We did not expect that the country would curtail international practices since Nepal is a member of several treaties and conventions on human and religious rights,” said Bishop Paul Simick, apostolic vicar to Nepal.
“We examine the real intentions of anyone of goodwill who asks a priest to convert. We never impose conversion,” the prelate explained.
“Now there is fear that charges will be levelled at priests, who do not ask anyone to convert but help people to conduct religious practices. There is the possibility that the right of priests to exercise their faith and duties will be curtailed. We shall have to see more developments in the future.”
The new code stipulates that anyone caught “in flagrante delicto” proselytizing for the purpose of converting a person “or undermine the religion, faith or belief of another caste, ethnic group or community” may be punished with detention of up to five years.
Moreover, anyone who “hurts the religious sentiment” of another confessional group faces up to two years in prison and a fine of 2,000 Nepalese rupees (US$ 20).
In an attempt to justify the law, Justice Minister Agni Kharel said that the law “is equally applicable to Hindus and Buddhists, among others. It is not only aimed at Christians.”