Several rights groups denounced the recent arrest of four Christians in Nepal for allegedly converting people to Christianity.
Nepal police arrested two men and two women, including an American woman, from Hotel Doko in Ghorahi on April 23, 2019 as part of the government’s campaign against evangelism, reports Pakistan Christian Post.
Respect the right of all religious minorities to practice their faith or belief through worship, observation, teaching, and practice. —Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
The Christians’ hotel room was searched and their belongings were confiscated, including their Bibles, cash and laptops. They were in Ghorahi, 261 miles from the capital, Kathmandu, for a one-day Christian conference for pastors which was also attended by 70 other believers.
Police detained Pastor Dilli Ram Poudel, 49, general secretary of the Nepal Christian Society; Gaurav Shrivastava, 34; Kunsang Tamang, a Nepali woman from Sankhuwasabha District; and Oleana Cinquanta, 49, from Colorado, USA, reports Morning Star News.
Cinquanta was already deported to the USA. She denied the allegations against them and disclosed that they were not distributing Bibles or money at the event.
“I was visiting a church program in Dang with my travel agent and some friends,” she said. “No one was engaging in conversion.”
Christian leader Pratik Bista argued that, “How is it a crime for a Christian to carry his Bible, and how is it a crime for an American to carry dollars when visiting a foreign country?” He criticized how the government treats Christians as ‘bad’ individuals.
Under Nepalese law, proselytizing and conversion are criminal offenses and punishable by jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $440.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has called on police authorities to drop all charges and release the Christians. Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, Nepal must “respect the right of all religious minorities to practice their faith or belief through worship, observation, teaching, and practice.”
The Christian advocacy group criticized Nepal’s Section 158 of the Penal Code since it limits an individual’s religious freedom and is being used by others to persecute Christians and other religious minorities.
Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country with Christians only comprising 1% of the country’s 30 million population. In addition to the daily hardships faced by Christians from radical Hindu groups, the government makes it more difficult for them to practice their faith.
Sources said the government doesn’t issue permits to Christian groups wanting to put up a church. Also, when the South Asian nation experienced a deadly earthquake in 2015, the government prioritized the rebuilding of mosques, temples, and shrines, but not Christian churches.
Christian anti-persecution charity Open Doors ranked Nepal as the 32nd country in the world where it is illegal to be a Christian. It revealed that the government didn’t support the persecution against Christians before, but after the implementation of the new Constitution in 2015, religious freedom has been restricted.