Compass Direct News (CDN) is reporting that five years after it abolished Hinduism as the state religion, Nepal is working on a new criminal code forbidding a person from one faith to “convert a person or abet him to change his religion.”
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CDN says that Article 160 of the proposed code also says no one will be allowed to do anything or behave in any way that could cause a person from a caste, community or creed to lose faith in his/her traditional religion or convert to a different religion.
“Offenders could be imprisoned for a maximum of five years and fined up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$685). Nepal’s Christian community, which has no representation in the Council of Ministers or in parliament, was caught unaware of the new criminal law in the offing,” said the CDN story.
“We have not heard of this,” said Lokmani Dhakal, general secretary of Nepal Christian Society. “We need to look into this.” Nepal last weekend failed to complete a new constitution providing for religious freedom, thanks to a protracted battle for political power. Once the only Hindu monarchy in the world and now the youngest federal republic, Nepal was to have unveiled the document by midnight on Saturday (May 28).
Nepal’s first Catholic bishop, Anthony Sharma, said many Christians feel betrayed.
“Not everyone is happy about the extension,” he said. “We hope the legislators will not betray the people this time. However, there is a small sense of relief as well. The country was moving towards zero state [as the interim constitution, parliament and government would have been dissolved if the three-month extension had not been granted]. So there’s relief at having averted that peril.”