Pastor convicted for prayer returns home on bail for Christmas
District Court of Dolpa convicted Nepalese pastor for prayer and evangelism in late November
Pastor Keshab files appeal and is released on bail
Vienna (23 December 2021) – This week, Pastor Keshab Raj Acharya was released on bail after being convicted and jailed for sharing gospel tracts and praying with fellow citizens. The Dolpa District court had on November 30th sentenced Pastor Keshab, 32, to two years in prison and a fine of 20,000 Nepali rupees (approx. 170 USD) for “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing”. He has now appealed the ruling and is temporarily free on bail.
“No one should live in fear of being arrested, oppressed or criminally charged for sharing their religious beliefs. We are glad that bail was granted in Pastor Keshab’s case and that he will be home with his family for Christmas. No one should be sentenced for praying and sharing the gospel. So, we hope the court will uphold religious freedom when it considers Pastor Keshab’s appeal. We urge the Nepalese government to ensure that all persons are able to freely practice and profess their faith by safeguarding fundamental freedoms in line with their international commitments,” said Tehmina Arora, Director of Advocacy, Asia for ADF International.
Sentenced to jail over prayer
On March 23, Pastor Keshab received a call from a man requesting prayer for his sick wife. In response, Pastor Keshab invited the man to come to his house for prayer. When the knock at the door came later, four police officers were there to arrest him. The pastor was released on April 8 only to be re-arrested moments later on charges of “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing” because he had been distributing gospel tracts. The Dolpa District Attorney’s office filed charges on 21 May under Nepal’s Criminal Code which prohibits converting anyone from one religion to another.
Pastor Keshab was denied bail on May 22, but after over a month the district judge decided to release him temporarily on bail equivalent to 2,500 USD. Five days after the order, he was released on July 3. The court then sentenced Pastor Keshab for printing and distributing gospel tracts on 30 November. He was released on bail this week until his appeal is decided.
Reflecting on almost three months of imprisonment before his sentencing, Pastor Keshab said: “It was very difficult for me. I would think of my little children and my wife, and I would cry out to the Lord in prayer. I would look up at Him in hope that if it is in His will that I should be put through this, He would get me out of this.”
Appeal filed to protect religious freedom in Nepal
In partnership with local allies, ADF International is supporting Pastor Keshab’s legal defence.
Govind Sharma, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nepal and Keshab’s lawyer said: “The decision of the District Court in November to sentence Pastor Keshab to two years in prison is shocking. Pastor Keshab was merely helping sick people by praying to God for their wellbeing. The District Court’s decision goes beyond the scope of the law and must be corrected. We have filed Pastor Keshab’s appeal and continue fighting for his acquittal.”
Images for free use in print or online in relation to this story only. Photo credit (Pastor Keshab and his family): Morningstar News