Nepal shows strong signs of becoming a more Hindu nationalistic nation. In a preliminary version of the new constitution, converting from one religion to another is clearly forbidden. This measure is aimed at limiting the freedom of the Church.
Christians are upset about the new proposal. For a long time they have feared 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 are allowed to abstain from religion but not convert; however, the RPP strongly opposes this clause. They want to remove it from the final version so that no one is allowed to exchange from Hinduism to another religion. Because the RPP has a lot of influence, the 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, 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. There could be an increase in violent attack incidents against Christians.
· As conversion is becoming a punishable offense, every activity of the Church and Christians could be seen as an act of conversion. It would be very challenging for the Christian communities and becoming Christian would be considered a crime.
The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party has been long known for its support towards the restoration of the Hindu kingdom in Nepal. They have been conducting rallies and mass meetings to promote the idea of reinstating Nepal as a Hindu state.
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 for equal rights and religious freedom to be guaranteed in the new constitution. But now there is a strong possibility of the constitution being amended in response to what the fourth largest party has proposed in the parliament.
Nepal is still trying to recover from an April earthquake that killed 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.