Persecution in Nepal increases as Christian population grows

Christianity has seen a significant boom in Nepal in the last few decades, but that trend has also been reportedly accompanied by an increase in the incidents of persecution targeting believers, as leaders see the Christian faith as a threat to Hinduism.

(REUTERS / Navesh Chitrakar)The national flag of Nepal is waved during a mass gathering in Kathmandu May 23, 2012.

According to census data cited by NPR, there were no Christians in Nepal in 1951, but zero became 458 after 10 years. That number then jumped to 102,000 by 2001 and has increased to at least three times in 2011, The Alabama Baptist relayed.

However, with the growth of Christianity came the rise in persecution against Christians, The Christian Post noted. The situation is bound to become worse for believers after the parliament passed a bill in August outlawing religious conversion, religious groups' charitable activities, discussing one's faith, and other forms of religious expressions.

The bill, which bears similarities with Pakistan's blasphemy laws, could mean up to five years' imprisonment for anyone found to have violated any of its clauses. The measure reportedly seeks to protect Hinduism, and nationalist groups see people's conversion to Christianity as a threat to the majority religion.

Last year, Nepal sentenced four local Christians to five years in jail for alleged violence and witchcraft after they prayed for a woman suffering from mental illness. Fortunately, they were released last month after a court overturned their sentences, the World Watch Monitor reported.

The four Christians --- Bimkali Budha, Lali Pun, Ruplal Pariyar and his wife Ganga, were accused of "witchcraft, forceful imprisonment and violence" towards a mentally ill woman named Seti Pariyar. They were thrown into jail in July 2016 and convicted in December of the same year even though the woman had testified that she was healed because of their prayer. A fifth Christian was determined to be not guilty.

At the time, local church leaders thought the Christians were targeted because of their faith. Nepal's new Constitution, which was introduced in 2015, included a new law which outlawed proselytism. Eight Christians who handed out booklets about Jesus at a Christian school were charged under that legislation, but these were later on withdrawn.