Pastor sentenced to jailtime for prayer and evangelism in Nepal
District Court of Dolpa sentences Nepalese pastor for “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing”
Human rights experts raise concern over state of religious freedom in Nepal
Vienna (6 December 2021) – The Dolpa District court sentenced pastor Keshab Raj Acharya, 32, to two years in prison and a fine of 20,000 Nepali rupees (approx. 170 USD) for “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing”. Last Tuesday, Pastor Keshab was sentenced for sharing gospel tracts and praying with fellow citizens. He plans to appeal the ruling.
“No person should live in fear of being arrested, oppressed or criminally charged for sharing their religious beliefs. Nepal’s constitution guarantees religious freedom and freedom of expression to all citizens. It is outrageous that Pastor Keshab has been sentenced for praying and sharing the gospel. We hope that the higher judiciary will overturn this judgment and acquit Pastor Keshab. We also call on the government of Nepal to safeguard religious freedom in the country in line with their international commitments and ensure that all persons are able to freely practice and profess the religion of their choice.” said Tehmina Arora, Director of Advocacy, Asia for ADF International.
Imprisoned for praying
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 has now sentenced Pastor Keshab for printing and distributing gospel tracts.
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.”
International concern over 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 to sentence Pastor Keshab to two years in prison is shocking. The only finding against Pastor Keshab was that he was engaged in the distribution of pamphlets promoting the Christian faith. The decision of the District Court goes beyond the scope of the law and must be corrected. We intend to appeal and continue fighting for Pastor Keshab ‘s release.
Images for free use in print or online in relation to this story only. Photo credit (Pastor Keshab and his wife Junu, after his initial release on bail): Morningstar News