NEPAL, July 22, 2015 (by Julia A. Seymour): HPI Note: This report is from a Christian website.
Christians and Muslims in Nepal are criticizing the draft version of a new constitution that bans religious conversion. Spurred to action by the recent earthquake, Nepal’s government introduced the draft for public comment on June 30, Reuters reported. The draft states that “any act which may be contrary to public health, public decency or morality or incitement to breach public peace or act to convert another person from one religion to another or any act or behavior to undermine or jeopardize the religion of each other is not allowed and such act shall be punishable by law.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Nepal Advocacy officer, Martin Dore said, “There is a purpose to stop all evangelism and talking about another faith in the words ‘incitement to breach public peace’ and the banning of ‘an act or behavior to undermine or jeopardize the religion of another,'” Dore said. Christianity has been growing in Nepal, with some high-profile converts from Hinduism. But in recent months there has been an uptick in accusations of forced conversions, according to CSW.
In 2011, Nepalese lawmakers attempted to make conversion to anything other than Hinduism or Buddhism illegal, according to Open Doors spokeswoman Emily Fuentes. But the legislation was not adopted. Christians and Muslims are minorities in the former Hindu monarchy, which is why both groups want Nepal’s new constitution to keep the nation “secular.” “We want secularism to be institutionalized in such a way that it is an unchangeable provision in the new constitution. We want the constitution to ensure religious rights and form a religious commission,” said C. B. Gahatraj, general secretary of the National Federation of Christians.
Muslims also want permission to have their own religious courts. Catholic officials in Nepal also called for the word “secular” to be inserted into the constitution and asked for Christianity to be officially recognized, according to Catholic News Service (CNS).