09/05/2023 Nepal (International Christian Concern) — An attack on a church in Nepal’s Lumbini Province on Monday was just the latest in a string of recent violence against Christians in the country. The church is in the southern Nawalparasi district of Lumbini along the border with India’s Uttar Pradesh state and was one of two churches in the same town that were vandalized over the weekend.
Photos and videos reviewed by International Christian Concern (ICC) showed broken windows and other signs of violence around the property, including damage to fencing and a broken motorbike. Another photo shared on social media showed two men, identified as pastors, being assaulted on the street. Gathered locals appear to have smeared the pastors’ faces with a sticky black substance in an act described by ICC contacts as a cultural sign of hatred and disrespect.
ICC has learned that the attacks in Lumbini are the sixth and seventh such attacks against churches in Nepal in the last two weeks. “It’s spreading like wildfire,” a Nepalese civil society leader said about the recent spate of attacks. Perpetrators, seeing little to no response from the authorities in recent weeks, “are encouraged to act more,” he told ICC.
News of another incident of men assaulting Christians, this time in Janakpur, emerged on Tuesday as word of Monday’s attack on the two pastors spread.
In Kathmandu, the country’s capital city, two men were apparently arrested and taken to court for street preaching. Though the country’s constitution ostensibly protects religious freedom, it does so in vague enough terms to allow a law today that criminalizes proselytization.
Chapter 19 of the Muluki Ain, or general code of Nepal, states that “no one shall propagate any religion in such manner as to undermine the religion of other nor shall cause other to convert his or her religion.”
Religious minorities are regularly arrested and charged under this law, which goes beyond its neighbor India’s bans on forced conversions to criminalizing participation in the act of conversion in any form. In Nepal, proselytization carries with it the threat of up to six years in prison and subsequent deportation in the case of foreigners.
The U.S. Department of State highlighted its concerns with Nepal’s anti-conversion and anti-proselytization laws in a report published earlier this year. “Multiple religious groups in the country,” the report stated, “[continue] to reiterate that the constitutional and criminal code provisions governing religious conversion and proselytism [are] vague and contradictory and [open] the door for prosecution for actions carried out in the normal course of practicing one’s religion.”
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