KATHMANDU, Nepal (BNC) — Lawmakers appear to be nearing completion of Nepal’s new constitution after seven years of wrangling. Protests and deaths have occurred in the past days because of proposed divisions of the country into six provinces.
But another provision in the constitution has observers worried. Attempts toward religious conversion are already illegal, but a new amendment would call for fines and imprisonment for anything considered evangelistic.
The broad language has raised concerns that even church meetings or benevolent works might be interpreted as evangelistic and therefore punishable under the new law.
According to India’s The Hindu newspaper, the provision is still under discussion.
The parties, however, failed to reach a conclusion on the issues of secularism. Further discussions were going on among the major parties on whether to continue with secularism or not. There were demands from different quarters to return to Hinduism instead of secularism or to mention religious freedom instead of secularism.
Nepal is 80% Hindu and greatly influenced by its larger Indian neighbor to the south.
A Christian Today article quoted a Hindu politician whose party is seeking return the country as a Hindu nation and to prohibit all “proselytising. We want to stop it,” he said.
From the Highland Park congregation in Muscle Shoals, Ala., Mike Brooks spends several months a year working in Nepal. In an email today to BNC, he commented that he would have a better picture next month after arriving in the country. He did, however, comment on the state of the Nepali church as it faces such measures.
“Surprise! Christians may be persecuted for their faith in Nepal (See 2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-21). When Churches of Christ began evangelizing the then Kingdom of Nepal in the 1960s, it was still officially a Hindu Monarchy – the only one in the world. Hinduism was the official and only approved religion and no other religion could be legally practiced. In spite of those circumstances the Gospel was preached, souls were saved, and New Testament Churches were established.
There are Christians in Nepal today who have been in jail for practicing their faith. This may happen again. We pray not, but we also recognize that the church has often been persecuted and that many have been martyred for the cause of Christ. Yet Christianity has continued to grow.
I am confident that Nepali Christians will remain true to their faith and with God’s help will meet any challenge the new system might provide. We pray that they (and we) will trust in God, continue to serve him, and continue to love those who are lost and seek to bring them to salvation. He has promised to bless those who do those things.”
Mike also writes a weekly column in Forthright Magazine called “Field Notes,” that highlights many of his experiences in Nepal and Bangladesh.