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Religious Freedom for Minorities Continues to Deteriorate in Nepal

04/24/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that five Christians, including an American citizen and an Indian citizen, were arrested by authorities in Nepal and charged with attempted proselytization. The arrests come as religious freedom in Nepal continues to deteriorate under the country’s controversial anti-conversion law that was enacted in August 2018.

According to local reports, the five Christians were arrested on April 23 in Nepal’s Dang District. Among those arrested were Pastor Dilli Ram Paudel, General Secretary of the Nepal Christian Society; Gaurav Srivastava, an Indian citizen; and Leanna Ciquanda, an American citizen.

The Christians were reportedly arrested by police after they visited local villages in the Dang District. Police seized the Christians’ Bibles, computers, and other items before transporting them to the local police station and accusing them of attempted proselytization.

According to local media reports, Ciquanda’s visa to Nepal has been cancelled. She may be deported and banned from returning to Nepal. Criminal charges have been filed against the other Christians who will likely face local courts.

Proselytization is now considered a criminal offense in Nepal. The process of criminalizing religious conversion began in 2015 when Nepal adopted a new constitution. According to Article 26 (3) of the new 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.

On August 17, 2018, the Nepalese government enacted this controversial portion of the new constitution when it was added to the country’s criminal codes. Under these new laws, an individual found guilty of even encouraging religious conversion can be fined up to 50,000 Rupees and placed in prison for up to five years.

ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “These arrests and potential deportation are truly concerning for Nepalese Christians and the future of religious freedom in Nepal. Since the new constitution was adopted in 2015, Nepalese Christians have been concerned that Article 26 and its enacting laws would be used against their community. In June 2016, seven Christians in Dolakha District were arrested for distributing handkerchiefs and Bible handbooks. In July 2018, a Christian couple was deported from Nepal after police claimed that they were involved in religious conversion because they participated a church service in Kathmandu. Today, Nepalese Christians have seen their fears realized again. Nepal’s sweeping anti-conversion law must be repealed if religious freedom is truly a right to be enjoyed by the country’s citizens.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]