Nepalese Christians Fear Broader Implications for Minority Community
07/12/2018 Washington D.C. – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a foreign Christian couple was deported from Nepal after being charged with committing forceful religious conversions. The deportation comes at a time when Christians are reporting increased religious hostility and growing restrictions on religious freedom in Nepal.
On Friday, July 6, De Vera Richard and Rita Gonga, a married couple, were officially deported from Nepal to their native countries of the Philippines and Indonesia. The Christian couple has been prohibited from reentering Nepal for the next year.
The couple had been staying in Nepal on a one-year business visa that they received on November 28, 2017, and operated a restaurant in the town of Pulchowk. They were also involved with Every Nation Church in Kumaripati.
A complaint was lodged against the couple with the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 21. The Department of Immigration subsequently launched an investigation and found that the two were working as pastors at Every Nation Church and were allegedly “converting Hindus into Christians.” Their role in the church was found to be in violation of their business visa and the Department of Immigration cancelled their visas.
Proselytization is a criminal offense in Nepal. According to Article 26 of Nepal’s constitution, “No person shall behave, act or make others act to disturb public law and order situation or convert a person of one religion to another or disturb the religion of other people…such an act shall be punished by law.” People guilty of this offense can be fined up to 50,000 Rupees and placed in prison for up to five years. Neither De Vera nor Rita were placed in prison, though they did receive the fine and were deported.
“The constitution guarantees the right to free belief and practice of one’s religion,” BP Khanal, General Secretary to the Janajagaran Party, told ICC. “Thus it was not criminal for them to attend a local church. The authorities have made a severe error and terribly violated the couple’s religious freedom. The question is, would the authorities have taken the same measures to deport someone found heavily involved in a Hindu temple?”
“The authorities must be fair to everybody’s beliefs and must respect the religious beliefs of minority groups,” Khanal concluded.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are concerned and disappointed to see two Christians forcefully deported from Nepal because they were involved with a church. Under Nepal’s constitution, individuals have the right to practice the faith of their choice. Many Christians in Nepal are concerned about increasing restrictions on religious freedom and hostility toward their faith community. With actions like this, the government is only piling on the challenges for Christians in Nepal.”
For interviews with William Stark, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]