Nepal’s Christians are facing increased persecution by Hindu radical groups who want to turn Nepal into a Hindu state again. These radical groups have close ties with Hindutva groups in neighbouring India. In addition, the Nepalese Government is limiting freedom of religion and in 2017 it adopted new anti-conversion laws.
A local source told Open Doors: “Any Christian talking about Christianity can be falsely accused of converting now, and there are several such incidents taking place."
Another Open Doors partner reported, "Batase Prayer Tower was demolished earlier this month. It was built in the area of government forest. The authorities destroyed it suddenly, without any prior notice. They didn't even allow anyone to take pictures or videos."
A few days ago, Shiv Sena Nepal (a political party in Nepal) forcefully entered Ananda Ban Hospital, which is run by a Christian NGO, 'The Leprosy Mission'. The leader of Shiv Sena, Manoj Sapkota, accused the hospital of proselytising and converting people to Christianity in exchange for free treatments. Some 30 Bibles were burnt and the hospital staff are now fearful.
Christianity in Nepal has been on the rise since the government adopted a secular democracy in 2008. Christian missionaries were previously banned from entering the country, but it is now home to more than 8,000 Christian churches and over a million converts to Christianity. Minority groups like the Dalits and the Kirats have particularly been drawn to Christianity. According to the Federation of National Christians in Nepal, Dalits make up 60% of all Christians in the country. After Nepal officially became a secular state in 2008 the new religious freedom contributed towards a proliferation of various Christian denominations and groups.
When compared with its neighbour India, the number of reported violent incidents against Christians in Nepal is relatively low, but it is increasing. Nepal is 32 on the Open Doors World Watch List. In the past year Open Doors persecution analysts have reported threats, arrests, physical harassment, churches and homes of Christians damaged and foreign Christians being expelled. Radical Hindu groups seek a return to a Hindu nation. On 8 August 2017, the Nepalese parliament passed anti-conversion legislation curbing the freedom to proselytise and convert, regarding it as a punishable offence.
One remnant of the fact that Hinduism used to be the state religion is the caste system – a hierarchical stratification of society dating back many centuries. According to tradition called varna, there are four castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras), plus a list of groups, now known as Dalits, who were historically excluded from the varna system altogether, and are still ostracised as ‘Untouchables’. Many Christians in Nepal are from a Dalit background. Most Christians in Nepal belong to the lower social strata and have low incomes.
Nepal made international headlines when it was struck by two major earthquakes in April and May 2015, killing an estimated 9,200 people and causing damage of around ten billion USD, 50% of Nepal’s annual GDP. What has been less reported, though, is the fact that the government promised to fund the reconstruction of temples destroyed, but not of church buildings which were destroyed as well.