Nepal’s Prime Minister Makes Religious Freedom Pledge
In a welcome move for Christians, the Prime Minister of Nepal has made a public commitment that religious freedom will be upheld in the country's long-awaited constitution.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala made the assurance on 6 October during an address to Muslims in the Hindu-majority country. During his speech, the Prime Minister praised the cordial relations that he said exist between Nepalis who follow different religions, cultures and traditions, and said thatNepal is strengthened by this mutual tolerance.
The Prime Minister's pledge may help to quell fears that religious repression in Nepal could intensify when the interim constitution becomes law. A proposed "anti-conversion" clause in the document, which has been under debate since 2008, currently states that "no person shall be entitled to convert another person from one religion to another."
If the anti-conversion clause were to become law, this would undermine the Prime Minister's promise to protect religious freedom. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been signed and ratified by Nepal, protects religious freedom and includes the right for every person to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
In a visit to Nepal in the spring, the vice president of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) urged senior Nepali leaders to outlaw religious conversions immediately. Similar "anti-conversion" laws in several Indian states prohibit conversions by "force, fraud or allurement"; they are often misused to interfere with legitimate Christian evangelism.