Christians in Nepal Petition Government to Repeal Religious Conversion Ban
Christians in Nepal have sent a petition to their government asking that a ban on religious conversions be repealed. The anti-conversion ban, which was signed into law in October 2017, has many Nepalese Christians afraid that it will be used by Hindu radicals to target and harass Christian leaders. Similar laws are used in India by Hindu radicals, many of whom have ties to groups in Nepal. Nepal is home to one of the world’s fastest growing Christian communities, will this law be repealed or will it be kept to curb the amazing growth?
01/21/2018 Nepal (Mission Network News) – In 2015, Nepal changed its constitution to become a secular nation with the freedom of religion. However, in October, Nepal’s President Bidhya Dev Bhandari signed a Criminal Code Bill into law. This law, known as the anti-conversion law, makes religious conversion illegal and punishable by five years in prison and a fine of 50,000 rupees.
The law technically prohibits any person from sharing their faith or converting to a different faith. Furthermore, the freedom of religion in Nepal was already restricted by the 2015 constitution in Article 26 (3) where it states,
“No person shall, in the exercise of the right conferred by this Article, do, or cause to be done, any act which may be contrary to public health, decency and morality or breach public peace, or convert another person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardize other’s religion and such act shall be punishable by law.”
It’s questionable if this law was influenced by Nepal’s relationship with India, a country where many of its states also have anti-conversion laws. With that said, when Nepal declared itself as a secular nation, India essentially blackmailed the nation by blocking supplies from entering.
Because Nepal is nestled among the Himalayas, India is the main route for supplies and trade. The country also receives all its oil, petroleum, and gasoline from a single supplier in India: the Indian Oil Corporation. For Nepal, staying on good terms with India is nearly a must for survival.
However, despite Nepal’s relationship with India, this anti-conversion law became a campaign point when Nepal held elections in November for the first time in 20 years. Some candidates began promising Christians positive change to this anti-conversion law if the said candidate was elected. And not many Christians in the country wanted their vote to be baited by promises of change.
Instead, many Christians in Nepal have signed a petition urging the government to remove this anti-conversion law, but there’s been no word yet of how the petition is being received. Pastor Chhatri*, a pastor in Nepal explains:
“This decision made by [the] government made a great discouragement and brought fear in the life of Christians. But, we Christians leaders [and] families stand and encourage our people to adapt to any situation and to continue [to] share Christ and continue [to] encourage each other and support each other.”
Despite the law being in place, there hasn’t been much action from the government to enforce it. Chhatri explains this could be because the government is simply focused on other things. Still, many Christians in Nepal have been taking this opportunity to continue sharing Christ, equip God’s people, and plant churches.
For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.