Much fanfare was made when Nepal released its new constitution last September, but since then concerns have been growing about the implications of the new constitution, especially on religious freedom.
The constitution significantly stifles religious freedom by making it illegal for anyone to promote or express their religion in a way that could result in someone changing their faith.
The controversial bill – yet to be made law – proposes five years imprisonment and a penalty of fifty thousand rupees for anyone found guilty of converting a person from one religion to another.
If the bill is passed, it’s feared that it will result in a situation worse than Pakistan’s blasphemy law – a bill that can be misinterpreted and misused by anyone wanting to make a false accusation against anyone else.
The conversion laws will have particular ramifications for people such as the Dalits and minority ethnic groups, who are already discriminated against in the Hindu caste system and who seek to escape this discrimination by changing their religion. Such a bill would make it illegal for them to do so.
Pastor Tanka Subedi, who is leading consultations among Christian church leaders to pressure for an amendment to the bill, says that Nepal is home to many religions, and this is an issue about freedom of religion.
“The present anti-conversion bill proposal is targeted not only at Christians. This proposal not only bans conversion but also bans freedom to express and practice what you believe even though you have no intention to convert others,” said Subedi.
“This bill is totally unacceptable and has a no respect to another person’s freedom and rights.”
Some of Nepal’s Hindu majority see their religion as the heart of the country’s identity. The way they understand it, if the constitution declares that Nepal is a secular state then Hinduism is under threat.
The concern amongst Christians is that the word used in the constitution for ‘secular’ is a word that actually means ‘sanatan’ – the protection of religion and culture as well as religious and cultural freedom.
But ‘sanatan’ is a Hindu term and, therefore, there are serious concerns that it is about protecting Hinduism and disregarding Nepal’s minority religions. Until the wording in the constitution is made clearer and equal treatment assured to all religious groups, these concerns will remain.
- Pray for the government of Nepal as it grapples with the new constitution. Pray that they will hear the concerns of the Christian and minority communities, and reword the constitution to ensure religious freedom for all.
- Pray for Christians in Nepal, for unity as they work together to petition the government.
- Pray for the Nepal Church, to grow strong in faith and to be a witness in their communities to the truth of Jesus Christ.
- Pray for protection over Christians in Nepal, as Hindu nationalism begins to rear its head.
- Pray for Nepal as it also continues to struggle to rebuild after last year’s earthquake.
Ephesians 6 vs 12: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.“
Source: http://www.ucanindia.in/news, http://www.persecution.org/2016