Find

20 November 2017

Help AsiaNews | About us | P.I.M.E. | Contact us | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | desktop

09/11/2017 NEPAL

Nepal’s new criminal code punishes all religious conversions

Parliament approved the legislation, which will come into effect in August 2018. Anyone caught proselytising risks up to five years in prison. Those who hurts others’ religious sentiment can be fined and get up to two years of prison. Minority religious leaders slam the new provision as a restriction on freedom of belief.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s parliament approved a new criminal code punishing all religious conversions as well as all activities of evangelisation and proselytising.

The law applies to both Nepali citizens and foreigners (missionaries included) and will come into effect in August 2018.

Since most Nepalis are Hindus (more than 80 per cent of the population), minorities feel the legislation is designed to discourage their faith, especially Christianity.

AsiaNews spoke to some Christian leaders, Catholic included, all of whom are appalled by the parliament’s decision. Now they fear for their members and for religious freedom, which in theory is guaranteed by the country’s secular and democratic constitution adopted in 2015.

"We did not expect that the country would curtail international practices since Nepal is a member of several treaties and conventions on human and religious rights,” said Bishop Paul Simick, apostolic vicar to Nepal.

“We examine the real intentions of anyone of goodwill who asks a priest to convert. We never impose conversion,” the prelate explained.

“Now there is fear that charges will be levelled at priests, who do not ask anyone to convert but help people to conduct religious practices. There is the possibility that the right of priests to exercise their faith and duties will be curtailed. We shall have to see more developments in the future."

The new code stipulates that anyone caught "in flagrante delicto" proselytising for the purpose of converting a person "or undermine the religion, faith or belief of another caste, ethnic group or community" may be punished with detention of up to five years.

Moreover, anyone who "hurts the religious sentiment" of another confessional group faces up to two years in prison and a fine of 2,000 Nepalese rupees (US$ 20).

In an attempt to justify the law, Justice Minister Agni Kharel said that the law “is equally applicable to Hindus and Buddhists, among others. It is not only aimed at Christians.”

C B Gahatraj, president of Christian Federation Nepal, disagrees. "This code aims to control religious freedom and freedom of conversion,” he said.

“We strongly condemn such control in every form. Minorities were forced to follow traditional Hindu practices. But because of discrimination and oppression, people are interested in Christianity."

The Christian leader also slammed "political parties trying to control the growing interest of people into converting to Christianity."

"We do not force anyone or ask them to change religion,” he explained. They come to join us and we cannot deny them entry into the Christian community."

For Rev Bharat Giri, president of the AP Christian Party and pastor of the Believers Church, "This is a conspiracy against the increasing Christian population. But we will not stop our evangelical work, which is our priestly duty. God will defend us."

Nazrul Hussein, head of an inter-faith group, said that "the government cannot curtail freedom of choice and religion at its own discretion. We stand against this provision."

Conversely, for Dinesh Bhattarai, an advisor to the prime minister, “The new provision is designed to control forced conversions or those who violate religious sentiments. It is not aimed at any one faith or believer.”






See also

04/10/2007 TURKEY
The Government ponders changes to the controversial art. 301 of the penal code
Because of this norm writers, scholars and journalists have been investigated for proposing different versions to official “truths” for example the Armenian Genocide. The EU requested it be dropped or substantially modified.

26/06/2012 RUSSIA
Joke award for the Patriarch of Moscow. The Duma wants tougher penalties for incitement to religious hatred
The majority party United Russia prepares amendments to the penal code to ensure that the Church is not the subject of satire or negative comments. The Patriarchate approves: it will help avoid civil war.

29/10/2009 PAKISTAN
Blasphemy law: a long list of injustices (An overview)
Under Sections 295 B and 205-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, anyone who desecrates the Qur‘an or defiles the name of the prophet Muhammad is punished with death or life imprisonment. Implemented in 1986 by then dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, to woo the country’s fundamentalist faction, the laws have become a tool to persecute religious minorities and even Muslims. Almost a thousand people have been charged so far under the law, and hundreds have become its victims.

16/09/2009 PAKISTAN
Sialkot: police charges crowd at funeral for young man killed in prison for blasphemy
Police attack mourners during the burial ceremony. Witnesses say police used tear gas against the crowd, injuring some and arresting others. Police claims it had to move in to prevent “further disturbances”. Catholic leaders renew call for the repeal of the blasphemy laws.

02/11/2004 PAKISTAN
Changes to Blasphemy Law fall short of expectations

For Christians, the law must be rejected. Human rights activists are dissatisfied with Hudood ordinances.




Find
AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153
desk@asianews.it


GLACOM®