Government authorities and media outlets in Nepal are utilizing the global COVID-19 pandemic as a cover for the arbitrary arrests and denial of fundamental rights of religious minorities.
Religious minority communities, including Christians, Muslims and Buddhists, in Nepal suffer increased discrimination, harassment and persecution. In October 2017, the Nepalese government passed legislation that criminalizes religious conversion which states that no one should either be involved in or encourage ‘conversion of religion.’ Those arrested and found guilty in violating this law can be imprisoned for five years and fined $500 USD.” Whether someone is Muslim or Christian or Hindu or Buddhist they are expected to stay that way. Anti-minority movements have since gained boldness and have ramped up persecution of Christians and Muslims at alarming speed.
In response to the deteriorating situation, prominent non-profit organizations that advocate for the universal right to freedom of religion or belief have prepared a joint submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review process for Nepal. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process where the UN Human Rights Council periodically reviews he human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The ultimate goal of the UPR is to improve human rights on the ground.
The joint report, prepared by 21Wilberforce, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Jubilee Campaign, Nepal Christian Society, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and The Intellectual Muslim Association of Nepal, cites unlawful and arbitrary harassment, restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, and the detention of religious minority communities in Nepal. While the Nepalese government might investigate these incidents, they routinely do not hold accountable the officials and security responsible for the occurrences. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for Nepal to adopt that can help secure justice and freedom of religion or belief for citizens of Nepal.
Lou Ann Sabatier