Four devout Christians have been arrested in Nepal. Their crime? Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The 4 believers; ul Bahadur Pariyar, Rupa Sonam, Chandrakali Rawat, and Bhim Kumari, were arrested in the Salyan District on charges of “preaching Christianity.” According to International Christian Concern (ICC), authorities confiscated a bag of faith-based literature at the time of the arrest — the men are currently being detained under the country’s draconian anti-conversion law.
In comments made to Faithwire, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, noted the detainees are “unable to afford lawyers to represent them” at this time, and remain behind bars until a trial can be arranged.
What does the anti-conversion law actually say?
The clause specific clause in question is contained within Article 26 (3) of the constitution, and reads as follows
The anti-religion guidelines were only bolstered in 2018 when a new penal code came into law — Section 158 of the law warns that “no person shall convert anyone from one religion to another or make attempt to or abet such conversion.” Violating the penal code can land you with a fine of up to 50,000 rupees, and even five years behind bars.
“Since the law has been added, biased police officers have been able to arrest Christians and simply charge them with attempted conversions to justify the arrests,” Stark explained to Faithwire. “Seventeen Christians have been accused and arrested under the anti-conversion law in 2019 alone. Those arrested include both Nepalese Christians and foreigners, including two Americans. Forced deportations have been the results of foreign Christians being accused and arrested.”
The knock-on effect from these legal changes has been “significant level of fear among Nepal’s Christian community,” Stark added, noting that the “ambiguity” of the law is extremely unnerving.
“As the law states, any behavior or act that causes someone to convert is punishable by law,” he said. “It’s hard to understand what type of behavior is criminalized.”