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01/08/2023 Nepal (International Christian Concern) – Nepal, renowned for its cultural richness and historical tolerance, is grappling with an alarming surge in religious persecution. This surge, largely fueled by the infiltration of radical Hindu ideology from neighboring India, has sparked concerns about the eroding fabric of religious freedom and tolerance in the country.

UNPACKING NEPAL’S RISING PERSECUTION

Historically, Nepal has prided itself on a legacy of religious tolerance, despite constraints on proselytization and conversion, which remained in place until the constitutional monarchy transition in 1990. But recent incidents reflect a stark departure from this narrative.

What’s caused the rise of persecution recently? Government anti-conversion laws, societal pressures from non-Christian majorities, and harassment by authorities against Christians and other religious minorities have collectively contributed to the escalating persecution in the nation.

The primary catalysts behind this surge lie within Nepal’s legal framework, particularly in the ambiguous and restrictive legislation governing religious conversion and proselytization. Provisions within Article 26(3) of the Nepalese Constitution and Chapter 19 of the Muluki Ain grant authorities sweeping powers to target minority religious groups under the guise of preserving decency and morality.

To add to that, reports from the U.S. Department of State have underscored the influx of radical Hindu nationalism from India, further worsening tensions. Civil society groups confirm financial support flowing in from India to local Hindu nationalist groups, strengthening nationalism for the religious majority and further dividing the country along religious lines.

FACING ADVERSITY

Nepal’s situation stands distinct from neighboring countries like Pakistan and India, where religious persecution against Christians and other minorities has long been a grave concern.

All of Nepal’s religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, find themselves targeted by a surge of physical attacks and community-level ostracism. Such assaults not only jeopardize their safety but also impede their livelihoods, as community boycotts devastate their businesses, compelling some to relocate.

The government response, marred by frequent harassment and criminal charges against religious minorities, has failed to ensure the protection of the religious minorities’ rights. Despite some instances of acquittal, cases often linger for years, instilling fear and inhibiting the free expression of faith.

HOPE IS NOT LOST

Amid these challenges, however, local NGOs and human rights organizations have shown resilience, fostering interfaith cooperation and amplifying voices against the growing number of persecution incidents. An interfaith coalition’s historic gathering in Kathmandu brought together diverse religious leaders and government officials to address religious freedom concerns.

While the international community’s attention on Nepal’s religious persecution remains limited, it’s pivotal to recognize the urgency of this issue.

The rise in intolerance not only threatens the religious diversity that has long defined Nepal, but also erodes the foundational values of tolerance and coexistence.

As the echoes of intolerance reverberate across Nepal, it is imperative for both local and global stakeholders to unite, advocate, and stand in solidarity against the forces undermining the nation’s once-cherished values of religious harmony.

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