An anti-conversion clause inserted in Nepal’s new constitution has some worried that persecution of religious minorities will increase.
Christian Today reports that the new constitution declares Nepal a secular state. However, section 26 makes illegal “any act to convert another person from one religion to another or any act or behaviour to undermine or jeopardize the religion of another.”
Religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) maintains that the clause is a violation of international treaties.
"This fails to allow for choosing and changing one's faith to be seen as a positive individual choice or as a matter of individual rights, as required by international treaties which Nepal has signed and ratified," a statement from CSW said.
In 2008 when Nepal’s Constituent Assembly (CA) declared the country a secular state, it had been the world’s only official Hindu state.
Despite its new declarations of religious neutrality, bomb attacks earlier this month in the Terai region are thought to be perpetrated by Hindu extremists. The suspected attackers were never prosecuted.
Christians are a minority in Nepal, making up only 1.4 percent of the country’s population. CSW worries that the new constitutional clause may restrict their freedom even more.
While we welcome the recent decision of the CA to maintain state neutrality towards all religions, it is vital that the anti-conversion clauses in the new constitution do not lead to the persecution of members of minority religions who wish to explain and discuss their beliefs with people of other faiths," CSW’s special ambassador Stuart Windsor said.
Publication date: September 22, 2015