Nepal Poised to Criminalize Witnessing Your Faith? | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

ACLJ Profile Completion

Verified

Criminalize Witnessing Your Faith?

By Tiffany Barrans1440175723973

All eyes are on Kathmandu, Nepal today.

The nation’s brand new constitution is likely to criminalize the basic act of sharing one’s faith – a move abundantly detrimental to the nation’s already beleaguered Christian community.

At the ACLJ, it’s an important issue in which we’ve been closely monitoring and engaging.  Though there are some positive aspects of Nepal’s fledgling constitutional movement, the “anti-conversion” provision could have a devastating effect.

After more than eight years of deliberations, the Constituent Assembly of Nepal is scheduled to finalize a new Constitution for Nepal. On August 17th, the Constituent Assembly extended the deadline by four more days for the Constitution Drafting Committee but a vote on the draft is imminent.

At the ACLJ, we have been keeping a close eye on the constitutional drafting process to ensure that Christians in Nepal will have the ability to freely practice their faith.  This week we signed a joint letter addressed to the Members of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, urging members to reject a provision in the new draft Constitution of Nepal that would inhibit religious liberty.    

The letter addresses section 31(3) of the constitutional draft, which contains an “anti-conversion” provision.  The first two sections of the Article offer positive affirmations of religious freedom. Section 1 upholds the individual freedom of religion and belief as fundamental, and section 2 guarantees that all religious communities have the right “to establish, run and preserve their religious trust according the law,” which should be a welcome change for Christians who have lacked legal recognition in years past.

Section 3, however, criminalizes “any act to convert another person from one religion to another.”  This “anti-conversion” language contravenes international standards for religious freedom and will likely provide a continued legal basis for discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in Nepal.

The letter details how sharing one’s faith is necessarily entwined with the free exercise of religion. We wrote:

In a recently-released preliminary constitution, section 31(3) criminalizes “any act to convert another person from one religion to another.” Yet actual conversion to another religion or no religion is often impossible without the involvement of others. Therefore, this section nullifies the freedom to share, change, and choose one’s religion.

Religion is communal by its very nature, and, therefore, a person’s decision to accept a particular religion or no religion (i.e., convert) can only take place with the assistance of others from within that religious community. Very few convert to Buddhism except first by talking to Buddhists and learning about the Buddhist religion. Likewise, very few become Hindu except by being taught the ways of Hinduism by Hindus.

In short, no religious conversion is possible without several “acts to convert another person from one religion to another.” Since the proposed draft of the constitution criminalizes these acts, it, in effect, makes conversion impossible—and, thereby, it completely denies the freedom of people to choose and change their religion. In this way, Section 31(3) would severely undermine freedom of religion in Nepal.

The letter also outlines the international legal norms and treaties that obligate Nepal to protect the religious freedom of all its citizens. The letter we joined discusses this:

The freedom to share, choose, and change one's religion are among the fundamental rights of man, and since these freedoms always involve “acts to convert a person from one religion to another,” the preliminary constitution violates the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights], the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], and numerous other international human rights agreements.

Furthermore, there is ample evidence to suggest that heavy restrictions imposed upon freedom of religion and expression encourages serious instability in society by empowering radical elements of dominant religious groups to marginalize and prosecute members of religious minorities. The instability caused by this marginalization results in a long list of repercussions, from negative international press to painful economic implications such as reduced foreign investment and tourism.

In a country where Christians have faced many decades of persecution, we are hopeful that a new era of religious freedom is on the horizon.  We will continue to advocate for religious freedom around the world. We urge Nepal to do the right thing and protect the right of all religions to peacefully practice their faith in every way.

Help Is on the Way for Christian Victims of Genocide

By ACLJ.org1529527709201

After years of living in terror, and fleeing a nightmare, Christians in Iraq are finally starting to receive the much-needed aid they require to start over. The brutality and bloodshed Christians have suffered in the Middle East at the cruel hands of ISIS terrorists because of their faith is...

read more

U.S. Senate Working for Pastor Brunson's Release

By ACLJ.org1528987952485

The U.S. Senate is now considering critical legislation in the push for Turkey to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson from prison. It is a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is the most significant legislative action on behalf of Pastor Brunson to date. As we have...

read more

Reaffirming “Spirit of Allied Partnership” with Turkey

By ACLJ.org1528313589017

Despite recent tensions between our two countries, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu just met in Washington. Following the meeting, the two offices released a joint statement renewing the commitments of both nations to work together. As...

read more

ACLJ Demanding a “Special Adviser” to Protect Christians

By ACLJ.org1528293600000

There remains a mass humanitarian crisis in the Middle East where Christians have been terrorized, attacked, and brutally murdered in an atrocious genocide. We’re taking action. Christians have been forced from their homes, barbarically slaughtered, tortured, and denied critical aid. As one young...

read more