Nepal's new constitution outlaws evangelism

Under Nepal's new constitution, anything linked to evangelism is outlawed. This dispute along religious lines is Nepal's first one since the land-locked Asian nation adopted a new constitution in 2015.

A Nepali court has dropped all proceedings against eight Christians. The charges on one woman and seven men involve proselytizing. They were accused of distributing pamphlets concerning Jesus inside a Christian school when the school was helping children to cope with trauma caused by the 2015 earthquake.

According to Release International, the new Nepali constitution regards any person who plays any kind of part when it comes to another person changing his or her religion a punishable offense. There is a fine totaling about $533 US dollars and a maximum incarceration of five years. Christian leaders claim they were not consulted before such constitutional changes were made.

Nepali Christians have expressed alarm over Clause 160 of Act of Offense Against Religions. This makes it clear that an offense is made when a person is abetted to change religion. This is applicable even when the offer is promised with or without “inducements.” Nepali Christians are afraid that it derail any activity which is central to faith, including aid work.

Other clauses have also caused alarm because they imply that it would be illegal to challenge social injustices like women's inequality and caste oppression. The rationale given by the lawmakers is that it will undermine the people's “religious feelings.” It naturally follows that Christian leaders now seek extra information and also legal advice so that they are permitted to contribute to the process going forward.

According to Ty Stakes of HCJB Global Asia Pacific, even 30 years ago, Christians were a rare sight in Nepal. It has since increased to 700,000 individuals. Since they are the pioneers, they have felt persecution. For those who have not experienced any attack on their faith and their numbers, such laws can be horrifying news.

Some are afraid that Nepal is following the footsteps of its giant southern neighbor India's “anti-conversion” legislation. The law has been used particularly against Christians. It is to be mentioned that Nepal transitioned into a secular state after the abolishment of the Hindu monarchy. In 2008, the country became a republic. Under the transitional constitution, proselytizing is banned. Nepali citizens, however, have freedom to express their personal faith. They can do the latter through charity work if they wish to do so.