This release is from the Baptist World Alliance, a CBF partner.
Washington, DC (BWA)–Baptists and other Christians in Nepal are protesting changes to the country’s constitution that limits religious freedom in the Hindu-majority country.
Nepal’s parliament overwhelmingly approved the new constitution on September 17 by a vote of 507 to 25. Some small opposition parties boycotted the vote.
A change to the constitution implies that conversion from one faith to another will become illegal. Religious conversion deemed “contrary to public health, public decency or morality or incitement to breach public peace… is not allowed and such act shall be punishable by law.”
This clause appears to run contrary to another constitutional clause that “every person shall have the right to profess, practice and protect his or her own religion according to conviction and the freedom to separate oneself from any religion.”
In addition, the constitution states that “every religious denomination shall have the right to maintain its independent existence, and, for this purpose, to operate and protect its religious sites and religious trusts in accordance with law.”
“We seek your prayer at this moment for our country,” a leading Baptist in the country asked of the Baptist World Alliance. He told the BWA that Hindu extremists demanded that Nepal return to its former status as the “Hindu kingdom.”
Nepal became a secular republic in 2008 after the Unified Communist Party of Nepal won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held in April of that year. Hindu nationalist parties and their supporters have since been agitating for the country to rescind its status as a secular state.
“Extremist Hindu demonstrators are threatening the churches,” said another Baptist leader. “They have stoned the Itahari Baptist church at night. Many churches have been threatened by them.”
Approximately 40 persons died during protests by mainly minority ethnic groups who fear discrimination as a result of the constitutional changes.
The constitutional crisis comes even while the country is in the process of recovering from a devastating earthquake in April of this year that left more than 8,800 dead, injured more than 21,000 and caused some US$5 billion in damage.
The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 232 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 40 million members in 177,000 churches. Its priorities are nurturing the passion for mission and evangelism; promoting worship, fellowship and unity; responding to people in need; defending human rights and justice; and advancing relevant theological reflection.