Nepal: Jailed Christians freed after nine months of imprisonment

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A Nepalese court has ordered release of four Christians who had been serving a sentence of five years of imprisonment. These Christians were convicted in 2016, of charges of violence and witchcraft. It is claimed that the Christians were charged of violence and witchcraft for merely praying over a mentally ill woman.

Christianity in Nepal

Last year, a District Court in Salyan, had handed down five years of imprisonment to four Christians namely, Lali Pun, Bimkali Budha, Ruplal Priyar and his wife Ganga. The court declared another Christian not guilty of the crime. The court had convicted the Christians despite the fact that the woman stated that she had been healed after the prayer. Her husband also stated before the court that the four Christians were innocent.

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After the release of four Christians, the Federation of National Christian, Nepal, expressed gratitude towards the court. The organization also promised to continue its support for the Christians released by the court. Christians believe that the four Christians were embroiled in the case because of their faith. A bill that restricts evangelization is being finalized by the Nepalese legislators.

United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its report stated: “Historically, religious minority communities— including Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists—faced few governmental restrictions on freedom of religion or belief in Nepal, and societal harassment was rare. However, the new constitution, promulgated in September 2015, criminalizes the act of converting a person to a different religion.”

“Christian minority communities reported to USCIRF in November 2016 that local government and police officials have interpreted the constitutional provision as criminalizing noncoercive proselytization. Christian communities also noted that since the constitution’s enactment, they have been increasingly harassed—and in some cases detained by local governmental officials—due to allegations they were converting Hindus, especially Dalit Hindus.

For example, in June 2016 eight Christians were arrested for proselytizing in Dolakha in northern Nepal. After the accused spent nearly six months in jail, charges against them were dropped” USCIRF reported about religious freedom situation in Nepal.