ASIA/NEPAL - Anti-conversion law is in force: Christians contribute to building a "healthy and peaceful" society

Tuesday, 7 November 2017 mission   religious freedom   freedom of conscience   religious minorities   human rights  

Don Doll, S.J. - Magis

Kathmandu (Agenzia Fides) - "Despite the presence of an 'anti-conversion law' that limits religious freedom and criminalizes a religious conversion, Christians in Nepal will continue to contribute to building a healthy, peaceful and harmonious society": says to Agenzia Fides Canadian Jesuit Bill Robins, a missionary in Nepal for many years.
"Christianity in South Asia will always face challenges due to its presence, because there will always be people who do not accept religious differences. Christian communities continue to profess their faith in a peaceful manner and bear witness to the Gospel without hiding. There is no need to hide or fight", he explains. "We must uphold the fundamental human right to freedom of worship. And then we are called to give forgiveness gratuitously, ready to help anyone in trouble, friend or enemy", he adds.
Nepal is a country where Christians are a small minority who sometimes faces risks and threats. Many faithful consider the move of Nepal's government, which approved the new "anti-conversion law" a step back, as it limits freedom of expression, conscience, and religion. A few weeks ago, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari signed the new law, already approved in Parliament, which is officially in force. The law guarantees constitutional protection to Hinduism, a religion professed by 80% of the population. The new law does not allow any religious conversion and punishes "offence to religious sentiment and blasphemy", providing for five years of imprisonment and a penalty of fifty thousand rupees (about $ 770 US).
The law comes a decade after the Hindu monarchy declared Nepal a "secular state" and two years after the country adopted a new constitution that in Article 26 states: "No one shall convert another person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardise other’s religion and such act shall be punishable by law".
Christians in Nepal make up 1.4% of a population of 29 million people (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/11/2017)