The freedom of religion in Nepal is under threat since the adoption of the new constitution in September 2015. Even though it affirms that Nepal is a secular state, it concurrently prohibits evangelization. Article 26 makes any act illegal and punishable by law “to convert another person from one religion to another or any act or behavior to undermine or jeopardize the religion of another.”
Since then seven people have been arrested in Nepal due to their evangelization activities amongst school children in the Dolakha district and one in a separate incident. According to missionary Bram Krol, who is currently in Nepal, Christians are increasingly being limited in their freedom.
According to Krol, last week all leaders of Christian orphanages and boarding schools in Kathmandu were assembled where the government announced that even as much as one Christian booklet found in their institution would amount to a huge fine, closing down of their institution and confiscation of their possessions. It is also prohibited to pray with the children or to let them attend a bible club.
Another Christian Nepalese contact, who we want to remain anonymous, has informed us that the Social Welfare Council, through which all foreign aid to conduct programs needs to be approved, has now completely ceased to grant approval for Christian activities. He also stated that acts of Hindu extremism against Christianity are increasing daily.
The most plausible reason for this anti-Christian policy is that the already fragile Nepali government wishes to create goodwill amongst its Hindu majority. Until 2008, Nepal was the only official Hindu state in the world. The Nepali government is currently constructing Hindu temples and there are plans to build an enormous Buddhist statue in Damak (in Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are closely connected). Subsequently, Nepal is to a large extent influenced by India, where the majority is Hindu. India already has anti-conversion laws in place in some regions, which means that clergy will have to obtain permission from the government to convert someone. Under certain circumstances it is even criminalized to conduct conversion or baptism. There is a legitimate fear in Nepal that this practice will spread and affect the Christian community largely.
The legal bases for halting Christian activities are based on article 26 of the constitution and number 1,512 of the Country Code under the Section on Decency. It states that no one shall propagate any religion in such manner as to undermine the religion of another nor shall cause others to change his or her religion. If a person attempts to conduct such an act, the person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of three years. If a person has already caused the conversion of a person, the person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of six years, and if such person is a foreign national, he or she shall also be deported from Nepal after the service of punishment by him or her.
Our Christian contact from Nepal stated that he considers filing a petition at the Supreme Court. He is however hesitant since all Supreme Court members are Hindu and a verdict in favor of religious freedom is not expected.
Call to Action
From sources in Nepal we have recently heard that the Nepalese government has dissolved. It is yet uncertain when a new government will be instituted and what the policy of a new administration will be towards Christians. Jubilee Campaign calls out to the prospective government to allow the full exercise of the right to religious freedom. All impediments of the free expression of religion should be removed. According to the by Nepal ratified ICCPR, everyone shall have the right to adopt a religion of his or her choice and will have the freedom in public or in private to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.