As Nepal continues its slow recovery from April’s devastating earthquake, the Christian community is being shaken again by recent political trends as the new constitution takes shape.
Nepal shows increasing signs of becoming a more Hindu nationalistic nation. A preliminary version of the new constitution contains a measure that is clearly intended to limit the freedom of the church; it forbids conversion from one religion to another.
Nepalese Christians are upset about this new proposal, which signals the realization of a long-standing fear: the rise of nationalistic Hinduism. The Hindus feel threatened by the fact that many Hindus are coming to faith in Jesus. In the past, supporters of the Hindu nationalistic group, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), have been known for threatening and assaulting Christians who are active in evangelism.
According to the new draft of the constitution, Nepalese may abstain from religion, but not convert; however, the RPP strongly opposes this clause. They want the final version to clearly indicate that no one is allowed to change from Hinduism to another religion. Due to the widespread influence of the RPP, national leaders have already promised to honor their demand.
If Nepal becomes a Hindu nation again, there would be many implications for the church and its missional activities:
· As the constitution only prescribes to profess, practice and preserve the Hindu religion, there would be no room for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ; even worship in churches would be forbidden because the church is not a recognized institution in the country.
· The pastors, evangelists and other Christians would be more vulnerable to attacks because the new constitution gives more rights to the majority religion to “protect” their faith. Violent attacks against Christians could increase.
· If conversion becomes a punishable offense, every activity of the church and Christians could be seen as an attempted conversion. It would be very challenging for Christian communities to function, and becoming a Christian would be considered a crime.
The country’s first democratic election was held in 2008 after a bloody civil war led by Maoist guerrillas overthrew the monarchy. Nepal’s Christians – 3 percent of the population – were hoping the new constitution would guarantee equal rights and religious freedom. But now there is a strong possibility of the constitution being amended in response to the fourth largest party’s proposal before parliament.
The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party has long supported the restoration of the Hindu kingdom in Nepal. It has been conducting rallies and mass meetings to promote the idea of reinstating Nepal as a Hindu state. Nepal has historically been a Hindu Kingdom. As a result, there is a strong chance of it returning to these roots.
Father, we lift before Your throne Your people in the majestic Himalayan nation of Nepal who live in the midst of a culture of Hinduism. As this new constitution is formulated, we pray for their freedom to worship and we pray that the current effort to stifle the growth of Your church will instead cause it to grow and flourish. We pray against attacks on pastors and evangelists and against fear among the community of believers. Grant wisdom and courage as they move forward embraced by Your truth and grace. In the Name of Jesus, who reigns over the princes of this world and is growing His church among the people of Nepal, Amen.