The Constitution (2015) states under Article 26 that the secular government allows Freedom of Relief or Belief. However, it is not permitted to convert from Hinduism to any other religion. This means that evangelism is not legally permitted. Tensions arise towards those who convert from Buddhism or Hinduism to Christianity. Even those of no religion cannot officially convert to Christianity.
Across the country local government interprets this in a variety of ways. Sometimes a blind eye is turned, in other places there is a heavy crack down on any Christian work. There are also rules restricting work amongst children. Christians are persecuted on three levels: first, by Hindu extremists who class Christianity as a foreign and negative influence; second, by families or communities who harass and harm Christian family members or neighbors because they are different; three, by the state who often target persecuted Christians out of fear that they are not fully Nepali in any way.
But the main reason persecution has risen is because the size of the church has expanded so rapidly. Said a pastor in Kathmandu, “We are facing a takeover of our culture by India’s Hindu extremists, who characterise Christians as corrupt and subversive, but we know it is really out of jealousy because of the good we do.”
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
“My church had its windows broken, the inside ransacked, and after I was beaten up my face was smeared with black tar as a sign of disrespect…I could not stop smiling that I was considered worthy by God to suffer for the name of Christ.”
PASTOR IN NEPAL
History of Christianity
Traditionally a staunch Hindu kingdom Christianity arrived here in the 16th century but were expelled in 1769 when the Hindu King decreed they were polluting the sacredness of the land.
It was only when Nepal became a democracy in 1951 that Christians returned. The faith grew especially after 1990 when multi-party democracy was established, and in 2008 the country declared itself a secular republic after centuries of being a Hindu state. Christians have been in the forefront of aid to this deprived and poor land, and low-caste peoples who are looked down upon by Hindu elites turned to Christianity for the dignity it afforded them.
The growth of the church in recent years has been spectacular, with independent Protestant Christians forming the largest group of just over a million, and some estimates put the church much higher than 1.5 million such is the growth.