- False charges of proselytization brought against pastor under anti-conversion laws
- Increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal since 2018 law
KATHMANDU (9 June 2020) – In Nepal, praying in public could mean prison time. Recently, the police arrested a pastor for allegedly spreading misinformation about Corona virus and praying for his congregation in fear of the pandemic. He has remained in jail for several weeks. ADF International allied lawyers have intervened in his case and urge the Nepalese government to free the pastor.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Pastor Acharya was arrested for practicing and sharing his faith, a basic fundamental right. This clearly indicates the bias that exists against Christians and how even during this pandemic, the authorities continue to target religious minorities. Though the fundamental freedom to profess and practice one’s faith is guaranteed under the Constitution of Nepal, Christians and members of other religious minorities have regularly been subjected to arbitrary arrests and criminal charges on the false allegations of forcible conversion,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of Advocacy, Asia for ADF International.
Persecution of Christians in Nepal
Pastor Acharya was called by an undercover police officer with a prayer request for a sick lady. This way the authorities found the way to his house and arrested him without an arrest note. He was accused of proselytization and spreading false information about COVID-19. His family paid bail and on his way out of the police station, he was arrested again under similar false charges. The second time the bail amount was arbitrarily fixed much higher at 500,000 Nepalese Rupees (approximately US$4000) that his family struggled to pay it. When they managed to somehow pay the bail amount, he was rearrested by the police in a third case. He was then transferred to a different prison in a remote region overnight. He is still being held in the prison.
In 2018, a change in the criminal code took effect in Nepal increasing the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities markedly. The amendment criminalizes propagating “any religion in such a manner as to undermine the religion of others” or causing others to convert. The Nepalese penal code dedicates an entire chapter to so-called “religious offenses.” There are also government restrictions in terms of registration of faith-based organizations and restrictions of raising funds from abroad.
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International said, “We increasingly see Christians and other religious minorities face persecution and denial of their fundamental rights in Nepal. Sadly, this recent arrest is not an isolated incident; it is one of many arbitrary arrests in recent years. All people have the right to freely choose and live out their faith. We urge the Nepalese government to uphold this right and do more to protect religious minorities and promote religious freedom, especially now when they are most vulnerable.”
Photograph of Pastor Acharya and his family (c) Morningstarnews.org and Tehmina Arora, Paul Coleman (c) ADF International