Nepali Christians fear that proposed amendments to Nepal’s new constitution that are likely to come into effect today, Monday 10th August, could eventually render all Christian activity illegal.
Attempting to convert someone to another religion is already prohibited in Nepal, but the proposed amendments would mean that anything perceived as “evangelistic” could be punishable by law.
On paper, the proposed amendments read the same for all religions, but no specification is given for what constitutes an “act to convert” and, in a country where 80 per cent of the population is Hindu, the hammer is likely to fall hardest on minorities, including Christians, who comprise between 1.5 and 3 per cent of the population.
Christians are concerned that if the latest draft is passed, regular Christian activities – such as holding church services, or even organising events to aid the disadvantaged – could be interpreted as “evangelistic” and, therefore, punishable by law.
The Church has never been recognised as an official religious institution within Nepal, and Nepali Christians report that they have suffered inequality and persecution for decades. Christians had hoped that a new constitution enshrined by the new secular democracy would guarantee equal rights and religious freedom for all.
Now there are those within the Nepali government who are pushing for the country to throw off its “secular” tag and revert to its position as the world’s only official Hindu nation.
There are others calling for the word ‘secular’ to be replaced in the constitution by the words ‘religious freedom’.
However, a recent editorial in the Kathmandu Post notes that, although “in theory the words ‘religious freedom’ sound positive … “, in practice [they] could have damaging consequences … In Nepal, the majority religion is Hinduism, and almost all the powerful people belong to this religion. They have the capacity to push for demands that Hinduism enjoy special status in Nepal, and the clause that enshrines religious freedom in the constitution will enable them to do so. By contrast, members of minority religions have relatively little political and economic clout.”
- Pray for Nepal as the new constitution comes into effect. Pray for wisdom for the government as it starts to implement it and for peace across the country in this time of transition.
- Pray for Christians in Nepal, to know the peace of God in the midst of uncertainty.
- Pray for the Nepal church to work together with unity at this time, for Christians to continue to share their faith in positive ways, and for protection over the Church in this nation.
Psalm 29 vs 11: “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”