Despite Conversion Ban, Christianity Spreads in Nepal

In this photograph taken on 8 October 2017, Nepali Christians take part in a church service in Lapa village in Dhading, some 100 kms northwest of Kathmandu. Photo: PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP

RICHET, NEPAL, December 23, 2017 (eNCA): More than two years after an earthquake flattened the Nepali village of Richet, most residents are still living in makeshift shelters. Only the church has been rebuilt — paid for by Christian missionaries whose influence in the mainly Hindu country is growing. Despite strict laws that ban religious conversion, Christianity has spread rapidly over the last two decades in Nepal, where many see it as an escape from the deeply entrenched caste system. The Himalayan nation was ruled by a Hindu monarchy for over two centuries until the overthrow of the monarchy in 2008 and also has a strong Buddhist tradition, particularly in the mountainous north. But the remote Lapa Valley where Richet is located is now predominantly Christian.

Prashant Tamang, a community leader in the nearby village of Borang that has clung to its Buddhist heritage, said the selective distribution of aid had created tensions between communities. “Dispute arises sometimes when Christians pressure poor people to adopt their religion by helping them in the time of need,” he told AFP. But a new criminal code that will come into force in August 2018 increases the potential jail sentence from three to five years and states that foreigners sentenced for the crime will be deported after serving their time. According to the 2011 government census, Christians make up less than 1.5 percent of Nepal’s population of 29 million.