Earlier this month Nepal enacted legislation to punish religious proselytizing, a move seen by Christian activists as targeted at the Christian minority within the predominantly Hindu country.
Signed earlier this month by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the new law provides for five years imprisonment and a 5,000-rupee fine per violation, Christianity Today reported Wednesday.
In February 2016, NPR reported that experts calculate Tibet is believed to have one of the world’s fastest-growing Christian populations, fueled in part by conversions of lower-caste Hindus evangelized by relief-agency missionaries.
For their part, supporters of the new law often criticize their newly Christian neighbors as cynically exploiting the faith of wealthy outside missionaries for material gain, The Guardian newspaper reported in August.
“They are greedy … after the earthquake, they got Bibles, rice, clothes, blankets, money to build churches. Pastors were getting motorbikes … They spend the whole time emailing foreigners to ask for money,” complained shaman Purna Bahadur Praja, reported The Guardian.
While Nepal’s constitution already forbids religious proselytizing, the new law — which also contains an anti-blasphemy stipulation forbidding the “hurting of religious sentiment” — adds teeth to the existing restriction.
Activists are now calling on Kathmandu to repeal the law and alter the constitution.
The “Nepali government [has] taken a regressive step as this law severely restricts our freedom of expression and our freedom of religion or belief,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Tanka Subedi said, reported Christianity Today.
“We urge the Nepali government to repeal this unjust law and amend Article 26 (3) of the constitution as they both curtail the right to freedom of religion or belief and undermine Nepal’s commitments under international law, a contradiction made even more striking as Nepal assumes its seat on the Human Rights Council,” said CSW founder Mervyn Thomas in a statement, according to Christianity Today.