NEPAL – Parliament passes new anti-conversion bill and potential “blasphemy” law
Earlier this month (8 August), Nepal’s parliament passed a bill restricting religious conversion and criminalising “hurting religious sentiment.” The new legislation, which the country’s president is expected to sign into law imminently, will mean anyone convicted of encouraging someone to convert could be sentenced to up to five years imprisonment.
Under a clause introduced into Nepal’s constitution in 2015, actions to “convert another person from one religion to another” are already illegal and have resulted in Christians facing prosecution. However, the new laws could in effect be used to make all evangelism illegal.
The second part of the legislation, which criminalises “hurting religious sentiment,” has been likened to “blasphemy” laws in Pakistan. The vaguely-worded clause states “Nobody should hurt the religious sentiment of any caste, ethnic community or class by writing, through voice/talk or by a shape or symbol or in any other such manner.” Those found guilty will face a fine and two years in prison.
Nepal is officially a secular republic, but was until 2008 a Hindu kingdom, and extremist groups are campaigning for the country to become a Hindu nation again. The population of Nepal is around 80% Hindu, with a tiny Christian minority.
From ADF International here
INDIA – Christians accused of “kidnapping” for taking Christian children to summer camp finally granted bail
After spending 95 days in jail, six Christian men who had been arrested in Madhya Pradesh in May as they travelled with children to a Bible School summer camp have finally been granted bail. However, they still face charges of “forced conversion.” One of the men, Amiya Jal, a father of three, is a schoolteacher and a volunteer church leader. Following his arrest, Hindu extremists visited the school where he works and the school has now written to his wife, stating that he will not be allowed to return to work until the case has ended.
From Global Christian News here
NIGERIA – Displaced Christians fleeing Boko Haram targeted in Muslim-dominated camps
Christians displaced as a result of attacks by Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria are not safe in government-run refugee camps. Because many Christians have been able to find refuge with Christian families in cities, official camps for displaced people in the region are dominated by Muslims. Christians face harassment and are at risk of sexual violence:
“Whenever supplies come, the sharing is chaotic. The officials would make us queue and usually fights break out as people struggle to jump queues and if you are a Christian, you are harassed and insulted. ‘Get out infidel!’ is usually what you hear all the time … Muslim men come in their cars every evening and women are ‘arranged’ for them by some camp officials and middle men who have access to the camps ... our young vulnerable Christian teenage girls are being destroyed by men. They deceive the girls, get them pregnant and divorce them,” explains Margaret, one Christian who was forced to leave a government-run camp in Maiduguri. She concludes, “Many times the Muslims come to meet us (women) and say they want to marry us and take us away from the suffering. They say we should simply convert to Islam and all will be okay.”
From Global Christian News here
TURKEY – Church pastor faces new charges of espionage after nearly a year in jail
The pastor of a church in Izmir who has been detained for over a year on terrorism charges has now been accused of espionage and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government. The pastor, who is a U.S. citizen but has lived in Turkey since 1993, was first arrested in October 2016. His continued detention and the announcement of new charges appear to be part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on Christian activity, following the apparent attempted coup in July 2016.
From Wall Street Journal here