Five years after it abolished Hinduism as the state religion, Nepal is working on a new criminal code forbidding a person of one faith to “convert a person or abet him in changing his religion”.
Article 160 of the proposed code says no one will be allowed to do anything or behave in any way that could cause a person from a caste, community or creed to lose faith in their traditional religion or convert to a different religion. According to Compass News the proposal would also prohibit conversion “by offering inducements or without inducement,” and preaching “a different religion or faith with any other intent.”
If found guilty, offenders could be imprisoned for a maximum of five years and fined up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees – three and a half times the national average wage. If the offender is a foreigner, he or she would be deported within seven days of completing their prison sentence.
Once the only Hindu monarchy in the world, Nepal was to have unveiled a new constitution on religious freedom on May 28, but Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal negotiated a three-month extension after parliament failed to reach agreement.
Public anger is growing against politicians in Nepal’s mammoth 601-seat parliament who are regarded as corrupt and power hungry. In early June, eight Hindu organizations enforced regional general strikes for three days, which paralyzed parts of the country. Nepal’s Christian minority is closely watching the upsurge in Hindu protests.
“From the very beginning, certain groups have been trying to foment instability and lawlessness, so that religious tolerance develops cracks in Nepal,” said Lokmani Dhakal of the Nepal Christian Society. “It is because our politicians don’t have vision and have been propagating [the majority] religion and community-based politics. Many of them are not happy that the number of Christians is growing in Nepal.”
Father God, today we pray that the proposed new code and the current laws prohibiting proselytizing will be overturned in the days ahead. Strengthen Christians in Nepal and help them to not be discouraged but instead fill them with hope as they turn to You for guidance and wisdom. We thank You for the many people becoming Christians in Nepal and pray for a continuing increase in their faith and numbers. Amen
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