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Nepal newest pariah on religious freedom

KATHMANDU (UCAN): Nepal has become the latest pariah state in the religious freedom field by making religious conversion illegal.
Seen as specifically aimed at the Christian faith, Kathmandu has now formed a bloc alongside its two neighbours, India and Pakistan, in which the small Christian minorities are facing increasing threats from the government against their faith.
“The Nepali government has taken a regressive step as this law severely restricts our freedom of expression and our freedom of religion or belief,” Tanka Subedi, the chairperson of the Nepali Religious Liberty Forum, said.
Christianity Today reported that the bill was signed into law in mid-October by the president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, and enshrines additional constitutional protection for Hinduism, which is the nominated religion of 80 per cent of the population.
The new law restricts religious conversion and bans the hurting of religious sentiment, as well as blasphemy. 
Offenders face a penalty of five years imprisonment and/or a 50,000 rupee (approximately $5,967) fine.
The new law comes a decade after the ousted Hindu monarchy declared Nepal a secular state and two years after the country adopted a new constitution.
Article 26 of the constitution says, “No one shall attempt to change or convert someone from one religion to another, or disturb/jeopardise the religion of others and such acts/activities shall be punishable by law.”
The founder of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn Thomas, said anti-conversion laws often target religious minorities and worsen religious tensions.
“We urge the Nepali government to repeal this unjust law and amend Article 26 (3) of the constitution, as they both curtail the right to freedom of religion or belief and undermine Nepal’s commitments under international law,” Thomas said in a statement.
Nepal’s Christian population has tripled in recent years, mostly through conversions. They are 1.4 per cent of 29 million.

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