Nepal, which was the only officially Hindu state in the world until 2007, has voted to maintain its identity as a secular nation in a new constitution, after years of contentious debate.
However, some faith groups are still worried that language criminalising religious conversion and proselytising could be used to target minorities in the future.
Parliamentarians have been voting on individual articles of a contentious draft of a new constitution, which is scheduled for promulgation 20th September. Early this week, lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment that would have declared Nepal to be a Hindu state.
Church officials praised the decision.
“Secularism is not only an issue of religion, but stands for freedom and equality within all the religions,” said Father Silas Bogati, the vicar general of the Apostolic Vicariate of Nepal.
Father Bogati said the decision implies that the state does not promote any one religion over another, and allows its citizens to choose their own identity and faith.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, a hard-line Hindu party and the fourth-largest in the assembly, had submitted the proposed amendment to reinstate Nepal as a Hindu state.
Madhav Bhattarai, president of the Nepal chapter of the Hindu rights organization Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, said the decision will “hurt the sentiments” of Nepal’s Hindu majority.
“Nepal has lost the opportunity to become the only Hindu state in the world … the decision has lost our identity,” he said.
Hindus represent a large majority in Nepal, making up about 80 percent of the population.
- Pray for Nepal as it continues to debate the proposed constitution. Pray for stability and for peace on the streets over the next few weeks as the constitution becomes final.
- Give thanks that the proposal to for a Hindu State was rejected. Pray that this will lead to wider freedom to worship for Christians in Nepal.
- Pray for Christians in Nepal. particularly with the wording of the constitution banning proselytising and conversion. Pray that they will continue to share their faith with courage as well as wisdom and grace.
- Pray for the Church in Nepal, for unity, growth and protection.
Psalm 22 vs 27: “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.”