In October of 2017, Nepal’s president signed a law criminalizing religious conversion. The law, which takes effect August 2018, prohibits religious conversion and restricts any person from encouraging conversion. The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison. The US State Department has noted that anti-conversion and blasphemy laws like Nepal’s “often violate freedoms of religion and expression and often are applied in a discriminatory manner.”
In Easter, a team of Nations journalists traveled to Nepal to celebrate Easter with thousands of Nepalese Christians—the last time a public celebration like this will be allowed to take place in the country.
Nepal is technically a secular country, though 80 percent of the population practices Hinduism. The number of Christians is estimated at about 1.5 million and continues to grow as churches take root around the country. As Christianity spreads—dismantling the caste system and freeing people from the practice of sacrifice—persecution also rises. According to a World Watch analyst, “Secular Nepal is becoming more and more hostile towards non-Hindu religious minorities.”
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, ESV)
In May, Nepalese churches and Christians suffered a string of bombings, arson, and arrests. The following is a record of the incidents, courtesy of a Nations journalist in Nepal. As you read, join us in praying for the persecuted church body in Nepal.
– On May 4, an unidentified group set fire to St. Joseph Catholic Church of Kohalpur, Nepaljung. According to a member of a neighboring church, an armed group broke into St. Joseph around 1 a.m. and threatened the priest before setting fire to the building.
– On May 10 in the Panchthar district, vandals set Hebron Church on fire. The intruders entered the church hall by breaking a window around 4 a.m. before lighting a fire and escaping. After neighbors noticed the smoke, they notified police and worked with officers to put out the fire. According to reports the flames consumed carpet and furniture but the church remains standing.
– On the same day in the Terathum district, six Christians were arrested on their way to preaching in Aathrai Sankranti Bazaar.
– On May 12, a bomb exploded inside Mahima Church of Dhangadhi, Taranagar. According to Pastor Birendra Kariya , a group broke a window around 11:00 p.m. and placed a pressure cooker bomb (an improvised explosive device) in the sanctuary before fleeing. The blast damaged furniture and blew out windows, but did not cause fatalities.
– That same night, two other churches around the country were set on fire. In Northwest Nepal, Emmanuel Church of Doti was set on fire, resulting in nearly $3,000 USD worth of damage to the building but no casualties. A couple hundred kilometers to the south, an unidentified group set fire to Emmanuel Prathna Church of Krishnapur. The pastor discovered the damage only the next morning when he opened the church hall to conduct the Sunday school class. The fire destroyed the floor carpet, furniture, and chairs—an estimated $1,500 USD worth of damage.
To learn more about the persecuted church in Nepal, visit Open Doors USA.
Images shot on Hasselblad / Tri-X 400.