When the Christians in Nepal used to throw a party, they would slaughter a chicken.
“Now they slaughter a goat,” said Bishwa Mani Pokharel, news chief at Nepal’s Nagarik newspaper, according to NPR.
They need the extra meat, he said, to feed the growing guest list.
The number of Christians in the Himalayan country has boomed in the past several decades. Census data from 1951 shows no Christians in Nepal. A decade later, there were 458. But in 2001, Nepal had about 102,000 Christians, a number that had more than tripled by 2011, according to NPR.
While the numbers have grown, so has persecution. Attacks against the Christian minority have increased, according to The Christian Post.
And Nepalese leaders are less than excited about the boom in believers.
In August the country’s parliament passed a bill that made conversion a crime. The law will likely make persecution increase all the more, the Post reported.
One clause of the bill that restricts conversion could be stretched to fit a wide variety of religious expressions, including the charitable activities of religious groups. Talking about one’s faith could be included too.
Up to five years imprisonment
And clause 158 of section 9 is similar to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which make it a crime to insult someone else’s religion.
Those found guilty, including foreign visitors in the country, could be slapped with up to five years imprisonment for violating either of these clauses, according to the Post.
The constitution of Nepal says it is a secular country, but along with the evangelism ban, the law also protects Hinduism, the majority religion. And Hindu nationalist groups say Hinduism is under threat as more people are converting to Christianity.
In April, Christian worker Santosh Khadka was shot as he returned home from an Easter service, according to the Post.
Charged with ‘proselytizing’
Earlier, eight counselors were arrested and charged with “proselytizing” after giving out a brochure about Jesus at a Christian school in the wake of an earthquake. They were later cleared of charges.
But the pressure is mounting in the country.
Other Christians have been falsely accused of conversion-related crimes, according to the Post, and Christians find they have no land to use for burial. If they bury their dead where Hindu authorities say they are not allowed, they are forced to dig up the bodies and take them somewhere else.
Lokmani Dhakal, a Christian in Nepal’s parliament, had asked for the two sections to be removed from the bill before it passed.
“It seems very clear to me that this country when preparing the civil code has forgotten it is a signatory to international treaties that protect the freedom of religion and human rights,” he said, according to the Post. “Please don’t let it be possible for the world to say of Nepal that we are the kind of nation that on the one hand signs international treaties but when making internal laws and in implementing them, does something else.” (TAB)